It is necessary to consider the multiple values of nature when making decisions

A new work published in Nature, in which a CONICET researcher participated, highlights that the merely instrumental valuation of nature results in a biodiversity crisis and environmental emergency.

Aerial view of red copper mining waste. Photo: courtesy of IPBES.

A new international study, which included the participation of 85 scientists from different countries around the world, published on August 9th in Nature,points out the urgent need to incorporate the different ways of valuing nature into political and economic decision-making if we wish to achieve a more just and sustainable future.

The work, in which Christopher Anderson, CONICET researcher at the Centro Austral de Investigaciones Científicas (CADIC, CONICET) and professor at the  Universidad Nacional de Tierra del Fuego (UNTDF) participated, has its precedent in the Report on Multiple Values ​​and Nature Assessments, prepared within the framework of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), in July 2022 in Bonn, Germany, supported by its 139 member countries.

For the study, the researchers evaluated more than 50,000 academic publications, public policy documents, and indigenous and local information sources, demonstrating that in all societies there are different ways of valuing nature that go beyond the economic use of natural resources, and that are frequently underestimated in the field of political and economic decision-making. In this sense, the work recognizes that there are different deep and deeply rooted ways of valuing nature, which are related to social norms and even legal norms. Among these forms, he highlights three types of values ​​attributed to nature: “instrumental” (for example, when nature is perceived as an economic asset), “intrinsic” (for example, when one wants to take care of nature from a point of view ethical or moral view), and “relational” (for example, the values ​​that arise from a deep relationship with nature, such as the feeling of belonging to a territory or collective identities).

According to the study, the global environmental crisis lies in a ‘crisis of values’, where a subset of values ​​has been prioritized, particularly those “instrumental” ones based on the economic market, which prevail over others, generating an “undervaluation” of the nature in total, which becomes the problems of the loss of biodiversity and climate change.

For the authors, it is urgent to understand the diversity of values ​​and generate mechanisms that contribute to their being contemplated in the private and public decision-making spheres, facilitating inclusive and participatory processes that reorient environmental actions and policies and developmental.

The study identifies four “value-focused approaches” that can foster the necessary conditions for transformative change towards a more just and sustainable future: 1) recognizing the diversity of values ​​regarding nature; 2) incorporate these diverse values ​​into decision-making in all sectors; 3) reform policies and institutional frameworks, and 4) change social norms to support values ​​aligned with sustainability.

As Anderson indicates, the work makes a significant contribution by demonstrating “that human beings have different ways of conceiving and valuing nature, and not only prioritize selfish uses or monetary values. From Latin America, we are well positioned to recognize this diversity and incorporate it into actions. For example, in our continent we have the Escazú Agreement, which guarantees us the right in terms of the environment, access to information, participation in decision-making, and justice. Also, in Argentina, we see the mainstreaming of the environment in our public policies, for example through the Climate Change Law, which generated a Federal Cabinet among all the ministries on this issue. But to achieve these goals it is necessary to consolidate a governance and decision-making approach that includes inclusive, participatory and equitable processes, and thus incorporate and express the multiple values ​​of nature, to achieve a more just and more sustainable future”.


Pascual, U., Balvanera, P., Anderson, C.B. et al. Diverse values of nature for sustainability. Nature (2023).

By Facundo Sota – Área de Comunicación del Centro Austral de Investigaciones Científicas