The role of values in future scenarios: What types of values underpin (un)sustainable and (un)just futures?

Zuzana V. Harmáčková, Yuki Yoshida, Nadia Sitas, Lelani Mannetti, Adrian Martin, Ritesh Kumar, Marta Berbés-Blázquez, Rebecca Collins, Klaus Eisenack, Ellen Guimaraes, María Heras, Valerie Nelson, Aidin Niamir, Federica Ravera, Isabel Ruiz-Mallén, Patrick O'Farrell

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Values have been recognized as critical leverage points for sustainability transformations. However, there is limited evidence unpacking which types of values are associated with specific types of sustainable and unsustainable futures, as described by future scenarios and other types of futures-related works. This paper builds on a review of 460 future scenarios, visions, and other types of futures-related works in the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Values Assessment, synthesizing evidence from academia, private sector, governmental and non-governmental strategies, science-policy reports, and arts-based evidence, to identify the types of values of nature that underlie different archetypes of the future. The results demonstrate that futures related to dystopian scenario archetypes such as Regional Competition, Inequality, and Breakdown are mostly underpinned by deeply individualistic and materialistic values. In contrast, futures with more sustainable and just outcomes, such as Global Sustainable Development and Regional Sustainability, tend to be underpinned by a more balanced combination of plural values of nature, with a dominant focus on nature’s contribution to societal (as opposed to individual) aspects of well-being. Furthermore, the paper identifies research gaps and illustrates the key importance of acknowledging not only people’s specific values directly related to nature, such as instrumental, intrinsic, and relational human-nature values and relationships, but also broad values and worldviews that affect the interactions between nature and society, with resulting impacts on Nature's Contributions to People and opportunities for a good quality of life.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101343
JournalCurrent Opinion in Environmental Sustainability
Early online date19 Sep 2023
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023

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