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Connectedness as a core conservation concern: An interdisciplinary review of theory and a call for practice

Summary


Substantial research review calls for recognition of the importance of connection with nature for environmental conservation

It is increasingly well understood that the disconnect from nature common in Westernized and industrialized countries is a root cause of the socio-ecological crises facing humanity and the Earth on which we depend. However, the term connection with nature (CWN) is often used “without the clarity of the process involved, the practical outcomes desired, and/or the relevance to conservation.”

This paper synthesized a large cross-section of interdisciplinary literature to: review the theory-based definitions, conceptualizations, and measures of CWN; review the activities and practices commonly associated with CWN; present possible ways to measure and evaluate the success of strategies to promote CWN; highlight the importance of CWN for both human well-being and environmentally responsible behavior; make clear the relevance of CWN to environmental conservation efforts and propose ways for it to be more effectively included to achieve action. Over 300 sources were included in the review, cultivated by a robust approach that used systematic searching, snowballing, and synchronicity to identify potential sources that were then screened for relevance to the topic.

The review comes to define CWN as “a stable state of consciousness comprising symbiotic cognitive, affective, and experiential traits that reflect, through consistent attitudes and behaviors, a sustained awareness of the interrelatedness between one’s self and the rest of nature.”

Several important themes emerge out of the in-depth and complex review. Existing research has identified multiple physical and psychological benefits associated with CWN, with a distinction that CWN “supports happiness and more purposeful, fulfilling, and meaningful lives.” Numerous studies have also found CWN to be a reliable predictor and motivation for environmentally responsible behavior.

The authors believe that CWN may further benefit the environmental conservation discourse by providing: “a more compelling language; hope and buffering frustration in the face of environmental crises; a more enduring motivation for environmentally responsible behavior; and an accepted avenue for tackling ‘fuzzy’ concepts often avoided in conservation.” More specifically, the authors present this review as a “radical but necessary call for conservation and education professionals to promote the theory (knowing) and embody the practice (doing) of CWN as a precursor for both environmentally responsible behavior and enhanced well-being.”

Citation

Zylstra, M.J., Knight , A.T., Esler, K.J., Le Grange, L.L.L., (2014). Connectedness as a core conservation concern: An interdisciplinary review of theory and a call for practice. Springer Science Reviews, 2(1), 119-143.

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