Stewardship in nature and the biosphere not always the pathway to sustainability
Promoting stewardship to ensure connectedness with the biosphere is a key to sustainability. Connectedness refers to human adaptation and the feedbacks with nature which ultimately affect human well-being. This is a discourse driven by the theory of SESs, whereby humans and nature are tightly coupled entities in a complex and dynamic adaptive system. Stewardship is idealized as the voluntary support of society for nature, physical places and sustainability. The reality of human behaviour, however, is that individuals adapt out of self-interest and constructed rationality which gives meaning to stewardship. Individual meaning can steer collective pathways towards unsustainability through intended or unintended consequences of human-nature interactions. These are often concealed in the complexity of the global sustainability challenge and unscrutinised stewardship theories. In this phenomenological study of stewardship, we aim to explore more critically how individuals’ intentions for nature and places affects societies’ pathways in the biosphere. We selected a locally representative sample of 35 enthusiastic voluntary nature conservationists in South Africa’s Garden Route. We applied a mixed-methods approach to assess differences in meanings and the SES framework to analyse intended and unintended consequences. Prevalent in our study area was a local pathway towards the disconnection of humans and nature, which provokes unsustainability at higher scales. This pathway was supported by a lack of self-responsibility in sustainable adaptation and a perceived role to mitigate in a distant human-nature relationship. This individual meaning to adapt the complex adaptive system is an oxymoron which underpins maladaptive stewardship. This study shows that disconnecting humans from nature drives unsustainability. The role of sustainability agendas is to reflect critically on unintended consequences of stewardship in the public, and to counteract this by re-evaluating the meaning and framing included in motivational strategies.
Contributed session oral presentation
Wednesday, 23 August
11:00 - 12:30
11:00 - 12:30