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MOTivational strength of ecosystem services and alternative ways to express the value of BIOdiversity

Final Report Summary - BIOMOT (MOTivational strength of ecosystem services and alternative ways to express the value of BIOdiversity)

Executive Summary:
Biodiversity policies in Europe are dominated by economic objectives and face a large discrepancy between policy intentions and real policy actions. With interviews, surveys and philosophical reflections, the BIOMOT project has studied how this ‘implementation gap’ can be reduced. The outcome is that a stronger emphasis on economic objectives and methods is not likely to work to generate more committed action for nature in society. Neither will a stronger emphasis on the intrinsic values of nature. Rather, what needs to be built are objectives, policies, programs and practices expressing the eudemonic values of nature. These are the values of connectedness with nature that create meaningfulness in the lives of people, communities and nations.
Project Context and Objectives:
Biodiversity has economic values running into the trillions of euros. The problem addressed by the BIOMOT project is that in spite of these immense values, biodiversity policies in Europe are still facing a large ‘implementation gap’, i.e. a strong difference between policy intentions and policy actions. We may interpret this as a lack of commitment to really act on the policy goals. Against this background, the overall objective of the BIOMOT project has been to develop a theory of committed action for nature. The major focus has been on individual people and groups (in civil society, business and government) and who display high levels of committed action for nature. BIOMOT studied the conditions that work for these committed actions to come about, e.g. related to experiences in nature, to structural circumstances and to the values (hedonic, moral and eudemonic) that shape both nature policies and the lives of committed actors. In order to enable a grounded discussion with economic mainstream ideas, understanding the role of economic valuation has been an additional objective.
Methodologically, the BIOMOT project’s strategy has been to blend interdisciplinary empirical research (e.g. the analysis of 34 biodiversity groups, a survey, a Q-sort analysis of expert opinions and in-depth interviews with 216 committed actors) with philosophical reflection, involving economics, governance science, qualitative and quantitative psychology, with philosophy acting for the integration and ensuring a unity of visions and concepts.

Project Results:
BIOMOT has generated a host of partial results too numerous to report here: on ecology in economics, on the separation between economists’ and non-economists’ visions on valuation, on the role of epiphanies in the lives of committed actors, on the role of group autonomy in their committed actions, of cultural patterns impeding expression of non-economic motivations and so on. The major overall result of BIOMOT is easy to summarize however:
(1) Monetary economic valuation plays no role in the motivation of committed action for nature.
(2) Other motivations however display no ‘crowding out’ effect on the committed actions studied. This implies that broad hedonic values (e.g. the benefits of nature for society, the pleasure of being in nature, the pleasure of learning about nature and working with others) do support committed action. The same holds for moral values, especially the recognition of the intrinsic value of nature. The question then remains however: supportive of what? What is the primary driver of committed action for biodiversity?
(3) The answer is that the eudemonic value of nature appears to be the key thing that moves people
Into committed action for nature. This is the value of nature in forming meaningfulness in the lives of people, communities and nations. The key conclusion of BIOMOT is: Committed action for nature is generated by that people feel connected with nature as meaningful in a worthwhile life.

Potential Impact:
Policy responses to this finding can be formulated on many levels. The inclusion of the eudemonic value of nature (as a third value next to the instrumental and intrinsic ones) is a step towards reducing the policy implementation gap. Parents and urban designers can work together to help form urban natures that are not only useful and beautiful but also meaningful for children. Programs can be designed that support people and communities to express and multiply their energies, ideas and practices of connectedness with nature.
The BIOMOT project has been designed with a single round of data gathering and analysis. This implies that its major findings are only half a year old by now, and their dissemination has only just begun. The first major step has been the Final Conference organized jointly with the BESAFE project (also of FP7) in Brussels, June 2015. Partial and preliminary results have been disseminated earlier, however, e.g. through policy briefs, newsletters, ‘Findings For All’ leaflets, panels in BIOMOT’s seven countries and so on.

List of Websites:
The website is www.biomotivation.eu. The central contact is: w.degroot@science.ru.nl. Other contact details, e.g. of partners and WP leaders, are easy to find on the website.