ACES to Lead National Ecosystem Assessment Shared Values Working Group
A team jointly led by ACES members Mark Reed and Jasper Kenter has been selected to take on the 'Shared, plural and cultural values' work package of the second phase of the National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA) which is commencing in May. The project (worth GBP 200,000) is funded by Defra, the Welsh and Northern Irish Governments, ESRC, AHRC and NERC. Other Aberdeen staff involved include Prof Mandy Ryan from the Health Economics Research Unit and Niels Jobstvogt from ACES and Oceanlab.
The project, which runs from May 2012 to November 2013, aims to establish a clear understanding of shared values in the context of valuing nature and provide a means to assess these for decision-making at multiple scales. It will focus on developing effective monetary and non-monetary deliberative valuation methods that account for shared, plural and cultural values of the environment; and on delivering empirical results that contrast shared values with individual values elicited through conventional non-deliberative valuation techniques. Case studies will deliver practical, widely transferable methods for assessing shared values and provide empirical evidence that clarifies the relationship between individual, aggregated individual and shared values; and the role of deliberation and social learning in shaping shared values. These will include a local, terrestrial project appraisal case study and a national scale marine case study.
There is increasing concern that conventional approaches to valuing biodiversity and ecosystem services fail to capture the plural nature of values that people ascribe to the environment. Although the most commonly used typology of environmental economic value, that of ‘total economic value’ (TEV), in theory allows for such things as concern for others (altruistic value), care for future generations (bequest value) and care for other species for their own sake without any clear human benefit (existence value), conventional welfare economic theory nonetheless conceives these values as purely individual constructs. From this perspective, the shared or social is an aggregation of individual concerns. However, the other social sciences conceive the social good to be more than the sum of individual concerns. For example, political scientific ideas about deliberative democracy conceive of social value as something that needs to be established through a deliberative process, through an exchange of positions and views (Niemeyer, 2004). Through due consideration of shared values, which can be seen as culturally and/or mutually held, ethical beliefs, deliberants can establish social value in an economic sense from a perspective of what might be in society’s best interest. As such, the valuation participant changes roles from consumer to citizen.
While deliberative economic valuation methods that include such concerns have been debated in theory, monetary deliberative approaches in practice have tended to focus on ameliorating other valuation concerns, such as lack of adequate understanding of the goods in question or overcoming the particular challenges of valuation in developing countries, rather than elicitation of shared rather than individual values. Currently there is no clear methodological proof of concept yet that can show within a monetary valuation context that individual and shared values truly differ, how they relate, and how the latter can be specifically elicited. There is some evidence that suggests that social learning processes indeed can change people’s economic preferences through drawing on people’s deeper held values (Kenter et al, 2011) but there is a lack of value theory that links social learning, political concerns, ethical values, behavioural models and economic preferences. There is a also a lack of clear terminology within the field of valuing nature, with shared values, social values and shared social values being used interchangeably, whilst referring to sometimes social willingness to pay, shared or individual cultural and ethical values, and social welfare or wellbeing.
Finally, there is the complication that conventional analysis relies on statistical representation, whereas deliberative approaches often engage stakeholder representatives. Such an approach would aim towards a socially representative group, where socially influential groups and opinions should be prevented from having a disproportionate say (Spash, 2007, 2008a). However, the outcomes of such a process cannot be incorporated in neoclassical economic tools, such as cost-benefit analysis, in a straightforward way. Consequently, it needs to be considered in what ways shared values can best feed into appraisal and decision-making.