Reflections from Thursday parallell session “Socio-cultural valuation of ecosystem services”
Photo: Katja Malmborg
I have just moved apartments. From my new place, I can walk to work. Every morning a path through a little grove of birch, maple and pines, down a hill and through an allotment garden. They are very well tended to, the lots. Throughout autumn, I walked passed the growing kale and orange flowers while the maples have turned red to yellow to leafless. It is a peaceful start to the morning. Invigorating. In the afternoons, however tough the day at work has been, the shifting colours always manage to make something behind my lungs tingle.
The allotment garden comes to mind, as I am listening to the presentations in the session “Socio-cultural valuation of ecosystem services” on Thursday morning. The session is chaired by Claudia Bieling of Univeristy of Hohenheim, Germany, and Tobias Plieninger, University of Kassel and Georg-August-University Göttingen, Germany. Socio-cultural valuation approaches examine the importance, preferences, needs or demands expressed by people, and articulate values through qualitative and quantitative measures other than monetary or biophysical units.
Plieninger tells us about a recent study in which he and his colleagues used social media photographs to assess cultural ecosystem services in different sites in Europe. Bieling explains how she used freelisting interviews, a short format interview developed in anthropology, to get at the linkages people make between landscapes and their wellbeing. Tim Daw, researcher at Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden, stresses the importance of using multiple indicators for poverty when assessing patterns of ecosystem service benefit distribution. Jason Julian of Texas State University, US, talks about how they used surveys to find cross-scale connections and diverse preferences between different users of the San Marcos river in USA. Sarel Cilliers, North-West University, South Africa, takes me back to my garden thoughts and explains how health clinic gardens have been used to increase human wellbeing in the North-West Province in South Africa.
Finally, Erik Gómez-Baggethun, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, passionately argues for how the market cannot capture the values we attach to ecosystems. He believes we need to reform public economic policy and that the legal system, being normative by nature, is a good tool in working with environmental equity and social justice. Elisa Oteros-Rozas, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and Universidad Pablo de Olavide in Spain, insightfully summarise the session by saying that socio-cultural approaches can help create spaces for diverse knowledge systems. Spaces that hold the potential to mobilize people and instigate change.
I love my morning walks to work. I think my afternoon walks back home help soothe my ragged PhD student spirit. I would not be able to put a price on that walk. It would feel like tarnishing that space, which is so reassuring to me. By developing these socio-cultural valuation approaches, ecosystem services research can help us get at those other values, and make them become part of decision-making. I also might be able to share how much I enjoy walking past that allotment garden every day.
I am a PhD candidate at Stockholm Resilience Centre. My PhD project is about analyzing bundles of ecosystem services together with stakeholders in the Helge å catchment in southern Sweden. Through my research, I have become interested in figuring out ways to communicate and foster resilience thinking with practitioners and policy-makers. Ever since I was a kid, I have used writing as a way to make sense of the world – so now, when writing for this blog, I hope to make sense of and communicate glimpses of the second PECS conference.
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II CONFERENCE OF THE PROGRAMME ON ECOSYSTEM CHANGE AND SOCIETY