UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Agri-'culture' and biodiversity : rethinking payments for ecosystem services in light of relational values Chapman, Mollie Anne


Agricultural land management has major implications for biodiversity and ecosystem services, including the many cultural and social values that agricultural landscapes provide. A key challenge is balancing trade-offs between these diverse and sometimes conflicting goals. One popular but controversial tool to address this challenge is Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) programs, which offer agricultural producers monetary compensation for stewardship actions. In this dissertation, I consider the role of environmental values in policy-making and program development, both for PES or alternative policy options to address the ecological impacts of agriculture. The first study examines the consequences of applying a metric (as a simple scientific tool) towards the challenge of food system sustainability in Vancouver, Canada. Via a case study examining four different policy options (including a PES program), I conclude that the Ecological Footprint, when applied as a sustainability metric, led the city towards a ‘metric trap’ that excluded policy options and prioritized particular values. The second study examines an incentive program in Costa Rica that pays farmers to protect forested land. I show that while program management focused on the instrumental values of nature and used an economic framing for the program, most participants focused on values about their relationships to the land (relational values) and saw the program as a type of help or support. The final two studies examine an incentive program for riparian buffers on agricultural land in the Puget Sound region of Washington State (USA). In the third study, I use interviews with land managers to show how key program rules conflict with farmer and rural land manager values. The fourth study draws on expert interviews and document analysis to show the ways that supposedly value-free scientific guidelines, in reality, express a suite of values regarding culture, landscape and place. This dissertation as a whole shows the ways that environmental policies and programs articulate values about what matters, and why, via supposedly value-free rules, regulations, metrics, and guidelines. I conclude by offering suggestions for how agri-environmental incentive programs could be made more effective and popular by incorporating values-thinking.

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