The missing pillar: Eudemonic values in the justification of nature conservation

Riyan J.G. van den Born*, B. Arts, J.G.A. Admiraal, A. Beringer, P. Knights, E. Molinario, K.P. Horvat, C. Porras-Gomez, A. Smrekar, N. Soethe, J.L. Vivero-Pol, W. Ganzevoort, M. Bonaiuto, L. Knippenberg, W.T. De Groot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


The public justification for nature conservation currently rests on two pillars: hedonic (instrumental) values, and moral values. Yet, these representations appear to do little motivational work in practice; biodiversity continues to decline, and biodiversity policies face a wide implementation gap. In seven EU countries, we studied why people act for nature beyond professional obligations. We explore the motivations of 105 committed actors for nature in detail using life-history interviews, and trace these back to their childhood. Results show that the key concept for understanding committed action for nature is meaningfulness. People act for nature because nature is meaningful to them, connected to a life that makes sense and a difference in the world. These eudemonic values (expressing the meaningful life) constitute a crucial third pillar in the justification of nature conservation. Important policy implications are explored, e.g. with respect to public discourse and the encounter with nature in childhood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)841-856
JournalJournal of Environmental Planning and Management
Issue number5-6
Early online date1 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • biodiversity
  • committed action
  • eudaimonia
  • life history interview
  • nature


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