Embracing Diversity

We develop novel concepts, tools and approaches for investigating diverse values, knowledge and human-nature relationships and suggest ways in they can inform sustainability policy and planning.


Values, knowledge systems and human-nature relationships are diverse

There are many different ways in which individuals and groups relate to nature. We have developed innovative ways of mapping human values for places at the regional scale and within their everyday living environment.  In early work dating back to 2009, we developed public participation geographic information system (PPGIS) approaches for identifying the spatial distribution and intensity of social values for ecosystem services in the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin as perceived by community leaders in natural resource management (Figure 1).

Human-Nature Transformations Embracing Diversity

Figure 1. The distribution of ecosystem service values as percevied by community leaders in NRM in the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin (Raymond et al. 2009).

Over time, we have become increasing interested in relational approaches to understanding the diversity of ways of valuing and knowing places, which has resulted in the development of more embodied understandings of human-nature relationships (Figure 2), building on insights in process philosophy (including tacit human-nature relationships, Kaaronen et al. 2018), the sustainability transformations literature (including values underpinning sustainability transformations, Milcu et al. 2019) and sound ethnography (Ritts 2017).

Human-Nature-Transformations Embracing Diversity 2

In 2019, we edited a special feature that explored multiple theoretical traditions on social values for sustainability (Raymond et al. 2019). We identified multiple lenses and meta-lenses for organising the plurality of social values.

Human-Nature-Transformations Embracing Diversity 3


Despite such tools and frameworks, we lack approaches for understanding possibilities for, and consequences of combining multiple knowledge systems, values and human-nature relationships for environmental policy and decision-making. 


  1. Develop new typologies and conceptualizations of knowledge, values and human-nature relationships to better represent the different voices that are interested in or affected by environmental decisions.
  2. Develop new methods for combining multiple values and knowledge systems, and for assessing the credibility, salience and legitimacy of more integrated understandings for environmental planning and decision-making.
  3. Explore the policy relevance of these tools and processes for environmental planning, including international biodiversity assessments.

Relevant Publications

Raymond, C.M., Kenter, J.O., van Riper, C.J. et al. (2019). Editorial overview: Theoretical traditions in social values for sustainability. Sustainability Science. 14: 1173. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-019-00723-7

Milcu, A. et al. (2019) Values in transformational sustainability science: four perspectives for change. Sustainability Science 10.1007/s11625-019-00656-1

Kaaronen, R.O. (2018) Reframing Tacit Human-Nature Relations: An Inquiry into Process Philosophy and the Philosophy of Michael Polanyi. In Env. Values. https://doi.org/10.3197/096327118X15162907484466

Ritts, M (2017). Environmentalists abide: Listening to whale music – 1965–1985. Environment and Planning D Society and Space 35(3) DOI: 10.1177/0263775817711706

Raymond, C.M., Giusti, M., and Barthel, S. (2017b). An embodied perspective on the co-production of cultural ecosystem services: Toward embodied ecosystems. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09640568.2017.1312300

Raymond, C.M., Kyttä, M and Stedman (2017). Sense of place: Fast and slow. The potential contributions of affordance theory to sense of place. Frontiers in Psychology. 8: 1674.