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The multiple values of Nature - Internship at the UFZ Leipzig 2018

From February 12 until April 15, Kiely Doherty, a student of Elite Master program Global Change Ecology, took part in a 2-month internship in the Environmental Politics department (UPOL) at the Helmholtz Institute for Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig (UFZ).

Foto: Elisabeth Erber

The UFZ is known as a scientific research institute focused on sustainable use of natural resources for sustainable development. The UFZ therefore supports policy, economy and the general public with knowledge about the consequences of human actions on the environment.

Within the internship, Kiely Doherty was responsible for collecting case studies for the ValuES project. This project focuses on the integration of the ecosystem services - these are the benefits of Nature to people - in policy-making The project highlights the concept of multiple values or the diversity of knowledge, systems, worldviews and social structures with which nature is "valued" differently. This concept as well as a guide to illicit different values derived from the relationships of people with nature, have been developed by the UN Platform on Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

As a partner in the project, the UFZ team seeks out case studies that reflect these "multiple values". The first case Kiely Doherty researched was about the Whanganui River Act. In March 2017, New Zealand's government passed a historic act, in which the Whanganui River was granted legal personality along with settlements for the local M?ori tribe. This tribe has faced a long legacy of the State's appropriation of the river and detachment from its value, crucial for the M?ori identity and culture. This legal recognition should remediate the impacts of the Crown's assumed authority over the river and the surrounding land. This has gained attention for its success in bridging colonial and indigenous views of nature as a resource, as an identity and as a function of power dynamics.

Kiely Doherty reviewed several other cases where multiple worldviews or knowledge systems were included into the decision-making process. Examples were: Sacred sites in Thailand used as compliments to nationally mandated conservation methods, incorporation of the value of the 'fishing way of life' and the identity attached to fishing in Northern Europe and in Micronesia and the inclusion of local people's knowledge about the use of trees species in Mexico for restoration planning. She also reviewed examples about the negative consequences of policy-making failing to include 'intangible' and 'cultural' values people attribute to nature (e.g. Gibe III Dam project in Ethiopia displaced thousands of indigenous agro-pastoralists to build biofuels plantations). Researching for these case studies provided concrete examples of the application of the concept of multiple values of nature - brought forth by IPBES - and will be incorporated into a 'multiple values guide for practitioners'.

The reviewed cases relate to course modules in the study program Kiely Doherty had previously taken and that look at the social dimensions of climate change, environmental planning and policies. It was therefore a great opportunity to build on what she had previously learned in classes, this time in a focused and applied context. Along with the extensive literature research about multiple values, she attended conferences and discussions with topics ranging from 'The Water Crisis in South Africa' to 'UFZs role in commitments to SDG 6' and PhD poster presentations. These department meetings allowed her to interact with researchers at the UFZ.

Overall, Kiely Doherty learned a lot from my time at the UFZ Leipzig. She gained knowledge about the social aspect of environmental science (economics, philosophy, ethics around nature) as well as the practical experience of working for a prominent climate research institute. This motivates her for the coming months of Master thesis work.

Text: Kiely Doherty

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