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BIOMOT explores what drives action for nature

At the recent joint final conference with the BESAFE project, the BIOMOT team discussed its exploration of what drives people to act for nature and how we can foster it.

Why are people motivated to volunteer for nature? Are they driven by love of nature, by duty or even by health or economic concerns? The EU-funded BIOMOT project, which held its final conference with the BESAFE project earlier this month, has spent the past four years exploring these questions. Learning what motivates individuals to act for nature could be critically helpful for governments and the EU in developing policies into the future. The BIOMOT project team endeavored to unearth this information by engaging with environmental projects and people on the ground across the EU. Among other things, the team conducted an online survey, 213 life story interviews with committed actors as well as interviews with 34 projects working for nature in the EU with the aim of learning what drives them. Team members also carried out a critical analysis and empirical survey of discourses on ecosystem services valuation. Speaking at the conference, project coordinator Wouter De Groot distilled the findings into some basic outcomes. For example, when the team examined the life stories of those who are committed actors for nature, they found that neither economic nor moral concerns were the main driver for their actions: ‘When we look at these life stories, we often see an amazingly intense encounter with nature in childhood. Through this encounter – a connectedness with nature is developed and nature becomes meaningful. This connectedness is crucial and to nurture it we need languages of connectedness back in our public discourse.’ The BIOMOT team was determined to use an interdisciplinary approach to the research and to interrogate the findings. The team drew on the fields of economics, political science, psychology and philosophy in their approach. The research allowed the team to define a prototypical profile of a person who becomes very active for biodiversity. Research revealed that informal activities around nature are important in later childhood and can ultimately lead to taking action for nature and biodiversity in adulthood. The team is now in the process of formalising the policy implications for such findings. The BIOMOT team also looked into the discourse around the valuation of ecosystem services – an idea which has gained traction in recent years but has proven controversial among some ecologists. Indeed, BIOMOT’s the findings revealed that market valuation is a point of conflict. The project examined the different discourses finding that policy making is focused on the economic valuation of ecosystem services without always being inclusive of the wider discourses that are out there. The implication is that we need much larger group of voices and the widest range of discourses to be included in the policy making and this can happen through bridging organisations and transdisciplinary research partnerships. The project will draw to a close at the end of August and recently published results include: key outcomes from the project; policy recommendations on fostering committed action for nature and the paper ‘A theory of committed action for nature: interdisciplinary explorations’. These findings should ultimately help governments and the EU to develop policies and initiative that foster voluntary actions for nature. For further information, please visit: BIOMOT http://www.biomot.eu/index.php

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