By Common Cause
In 2012, thirteen UK conservation organisations – including WWF-UK, the John Muir Award, RSPB and CPRE – came together to commission an analysis of the values they promote in their work. Led by PIRC, academic researchers from Lancaster University, Royal Holloway, and Essex University carried out innovative linguistic analysis of six months of external communications of these organisations. The analysis was supplemented by interviews, surveys and workshop discussion with those in the conservation sector.
The analysis reveals the values and frames used in the sector. These ranged from frames that were thought to be highly environmentally motivating, such as connection to nature and joint action, to those that could actually inhibit environmental concern, such as defenders and consumer transactions.
The research is based in the analysis set out in Common Cause, drawing on social psychology and linguistics, showing that there are competing sets of human values within each of us which can be encouraged and discouraged by language and experience.
We all share values that are associated with care, compassion and environmental concern, and we also all share values associated with materialism and self-interest. These two sets of values are in conflict with each other. This means that reading about the beauty of nature – or the experience of being in a park – can encourage environmental values and at the same time suppress self-interested or materialistic values. It also means that being encouraged to think about profit and image will suppress environmental concern.
We make recommendations based on these findings: both for communications and for the wider experiences that NGOs create on a daily basis: at reserves, in volunteer schemes, and through advocating for policies that change society.
We also argue that in focusing on immediate and material conservation goals, the sector may be missing opportunities to build long-lasting concern about the natural world in the wider public. Has the sector lost sight of the bigger picture?
- Environmental protection
- Framing - Guides_Manuals
- Movements_Campaigns - Environment_Nature