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  • 2019mikolajczakphd

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Understanding connection with nature at an Amazonian deforestation frontier

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2019
Number of pages139
Awarding Institution
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Despite a widespread conviction that conservation’s success depends on people genuinely caring about saving nature, there is very little scientific research examining how “caring for nature” influences conservation decision-making – particularly in poorer tropical countries. Instead, mainstream conservation tends to focus on economic motives to incentivise pro-conservation behaviour. To better understand the role of intrinsic motivations in nature protection in the tropics, this thesis draws upon the psychological concept of connection with nature (CWN), which describes people’s self-identification with nature and emotional attachment for the natural world. This concept is applied to understand intrinsic motivation for conservation among non-indigenous colonist farmers living at the Transamazon Highway deforestation frontier in the Brazilian Amazon. The thesis tests the applicability of the CWN framework to the context of rural populations in the Global South and scrutinises conventional wisdoms regarding “caring for nature”, including that poor people do not care about the natural environment, and that caring for nature is strongly linked to ecological knowledge.
First, a new tool for measuring affective CWN in rural areas is developed and validated. This measure is then applied together with an existing cognitive CWN scale to form the first assessment for CWN among farmers in the tropics. Next, the influence of CWN on the farmers’ conservation attitudes is compared to that of other economic, sociodemographic, geographic and psychological factors. Contrary to widely-held assumptions, CWN is shown to be widespread and more important in shaping farmers’ conservation attitudes than economic factors. Lastly, the relationship between caring for nature and ecological knowledge is tested. The results suggest that CWN is unconnected to ecological knowledge and associated with different predictors. Collectively, the results highlight the need for greater attention to intrinsic motivations for conservation and suggest CWN as a useful framework for understanding and improving people’s relationship with nature.