Barbara Muraca: Why protect nature?

January 25, 2023

Barbara Muraca: Why protect nature? The multiple values of human-nature relationships and their relevance for policy

Date: January 25, 2023
Time: 20:00 – 21.30
Location: Zoom

Barbara Muraca
is a Professor of Philosophy at The University of Oregon. Her research focuses on Environmental and Social Philosophy, Process Philosophy, and Political Ecology. Prior to working at University of Oregon she was Assistant Professor of Environmental and Social Philosophy at Oregon State University and Senior Researcher (Post-Doc) at the Center for Advanced Studies 'Post-growth Societies' at the Institute of Sociology of the University of Jena, Germany. From 2014 to 2020 she was co-director of the International Association for Environmental Philosophy (IAEP). Since Summer 2018 she is a Lead Author of the IPBES assessment on multiple values of nature (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services).


For decades the question about why nature should be protected has had two different answers: because nature matters for its own sake (intrinsic value), independent of how it affects people, or because of the benefits people derive from interacting with nature (instrumental value). While the first perspective rejects instrumental justifications for conservation and considers anthropocentrism as part of the problem, the second one highlights anthropocentric arguments and employs economic valuation to assess the importance of ecosystems to people. But does it have to be one or the other? Recent research suggests a third possibility: protecting nature because of the meaningful relationships that connect people to nature, and to each other through nature. These so-called relational values remain anthropocentric, but are not instrumental justifications for conservation. Since its development, the relational value framework has proven relevant for policy and in valuation studies across disciplines and has been adopted by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The lecture will present the policy relevance of this old debate in environmental ethics and embed it into the way in which IPBES operates at the global level.