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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

"Nature's contributions to people" and peoples' moral obligations to nature

Piccolo, John J.; Taylor, Bron; Washington, Haydn; Kopnina, Helen; Gray, Joe; Alberro, Heather; Orlikowska, Ewa


The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) has become influential in biodiversity conservation. Its research is published widely and has been adopted by the United Nations and the Convention for Biological Diversity. This platform includes discussion about how values relate to biodiversity conservation. The IPBES emphasizes "relational values", connecting these with living a "good life," and "nature's contributions to people" (NCP); building upon ecosystem services (ES), which have dominated nature valuation for 15+ years. Although the IPBES acknowledges instrumental and intrinsic natural values, they purport that by adopting relational values, conservation will become more socially- and culturally-inclusive, moving beyond the "unhelpful dichotomy" between instrumental and intrinsic values. We wholeheartedly agree that conservation should become more inclusive - it should, in fact, morally include nonhuman nature. We argue that far from being half of an unhelpful dichotomy, intrinsic natural values are incontrovertible elements of any honest effort to sustain Earth's biodiversity. We find NCP to be mainly anthropocentric, and relational values to be largely instrumental. The "good life" they support is a good life for humans, and not for nonhuman beings or collectives. While passingly acknowledging intrinsic natural values, the current IPBES platform gives little attention to these, and to corresponding ecocentric worldviews. In this paper we demonstrate the important practical implications of operationalizing intrinsic values for conservation, such as ecological justice, i.e., "peoples' obligations to nature". We urge the IPBES platform, in their future values work, to become much more inclusive of intrinsic values and ecocentrism.


Intrinsic value; Ecocentrism; Relational value; Anthropocentrism; Ecological justice; Rights of nature

Published in

Biological Conservation
2022, volume: 270, article number: 109572

Authors' information

Piccolo, John J.
Karlstad University
Taylor, Bron
University of Florida
Washington, Haydn
University of New South Wales Sydney
Kopnina, Helen
Northumbria University
Gray, Joe
No organisation
Alberro, Heather
Nottingham Trent University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, School for Forest Management

Sustainable Development Goals

SDG15 Life on land
SDG16 Peace, justice and strong institutions

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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