Ecological Values

Value Content

The first step in values analysis is to identify the content of values held by stakeholders and communities of interest. Value content can be analyzed from what people say, their writings, what they do, the projects they advocate.

Some of the commonly identified content of environmental positions are identified below. Keep in mind that an individual is not likely to wholly adopt one position. Each individual is unique. The next sections on value continua and clusters discuss how different value contents cluster together.

Deep Ecology (Devall and Sessions 1985). The content of values associated with deep ecology include:

Earth-Centered, Indigenous Values - Native American values are said to represented an earth-centered value perspective. Content includes:

Winona LaDuke lecturing at LaSells Stewart Center 1/18/92 gave these three pieces of key content for Native American values.

There is considerable debate over the actual nature of Native American views toward the environment. The Chief Seattle speech indicates how non-Indians interpreted indigenous values. The Treaty of Walla Walla negotiations, however, demonstrate an indigenous earth-centered belief.

Several versions of Chief Seattle's speech exist (Kaiser 1987)

Ted Perry is a filmmaker who was quite taken with the speech. He made modifications to serve his environmental interests. He changed the tone toward greater anger and shifted from concern for the deceased to concern for the environment. Compare H.A. Smith's quote of Chief Seattle's words with those of Perry.

Smith version:

I here and now make this the first condition:

That we will not be denied the privilege . . . of visiting the graves of our ancestors and friends.

Every part of this country is sacred to my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove has been hallowed by some fond memory or some sad experience of my tribe.

. . . , and the very dust under your feet responds more lovingly to our footsteps than to yours, because it is the ashes of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch, for the soil is rich with the life of our kindred.

Perry version:

My words are like stars. They do not set.

Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing, and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people.

We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man--all belong to the same family.

Perry seems to have added the earth-centered spiritualism to his translation of Chief Seattle's speech. Negotiations at the Treaty of Walla Walla do illustrate the earth-centered nature of tribal leaders attending.

Treaty of Walla Walla:

Young Chief said, ". . . the Earth says, God has placed me here to produce all that grows upon me, the trees, fruit, etc. The same way the Earth says, it was from her man was made. God on placing them on the earth desired them to take care of the earth and do each other no harm.

Stachas said, "My friends I wish to show you my mind, interpret right for me. How is it I have been troubled in mind? If your mothers were here in this country who gave you birth, and suckled you, and while you were sucking some person came and took away your mother and left you alone and sold your mother, how would you feel then? This is our mother country, as if we drew our living from her. (From true copy of the Record of the official proceedings at the Council in the Walla Walla Valley, held Jointly by Isaac I. Stevens Gov. & Supt W.T. and Joel Palmer Supt. Indian Affairs O.T. on the part of the United States With the Indians named in the Treaties made at the Council June 11th and 9th 1855 as published by Slickpoo and Walker 1973:119).

The treaty negotiations reflect the Native Americans, earth-centered values, and the Euro-American values about family farming. The two cultures had differing perceptions of social organization, land ethics, negotiating, land ownership principles, law and order practices, and views on resource rights.

Intergenerational Equity - The essential content is to do nothing that will make future generations worse off than the present generation. A common rule is that when contemplating an action think ahead to the seventh generation.

Preservationist - The debate between Gifford Pinchot and John Muir highlights the content of preservationist values. For the history of this debate see Jones (1965).

"Preservationists think the correct attitude toward Nature is to see it as having its own or intrinsic value. Conservationists see the value of Nature in its contribution to human welfare" (MacLean, 1993:171-172).

Buddhist Economics Shumacher (1973:53-62) gives the content elements of Buddhist economics as

Conservationist - improving the quality or resources and maintaining them in perpetuity

Technocratic - resources exist for the benefit of people

Value Continua

Environmental values can be placed on a continua from ecocentrism to technocentrism (O'Riordan 1981:376). The section on "value content" was organized according to this perspective. The section started with ecocentric values and moved toward technocentric ones.

Ecocentric and technocentric values tend to occupy opposite ends of value continua, as illustrated in the two lists below. Looking at all these lists suggests that many different value continua can be identified for stakeholders and communities of interest. The value continua dividing technocentric and ecocentric positions include:

perfect nature protect nature
dominance over naturea part of nature
private property rightspublic good
human centeredearth centered, naturalistic
human rightsanimal rights
human benefitecosystem benefit
active managementpassive management
hands onhands off
exotics encouragedonly natives
species specificholistic
free willmutual coercion
local global
imagination limitedresource limited
change stability

Table 1 shows some of the results from asking this question. These surveys like others show that people tend to support the environment when asked this question.

Table 1. Several surveys show similar patterns in the priority that should be given to environmental or economic considerations.

Survey Priority to environmental considerations Environmental and economic factors should be equal Priority to economic considerations
National (1991) 42% 47% 11%
Coastal Oregon (1996) 40% 44% 16%
Oregon (1991) 37% 44% 19%
Lane County (1994) 33% 40% 27%
Linn County (1994) 27% 40% 33%
Oregon Progress Board categories Environmental protection over economic growth very or somewhat desirable Neutral on environmental protection and economic growth Environmental protection over economic growth very or somewhat undesirable
Oregon Progress Board (1996) results 54% 15% 28%

Sources: Oregon Coastal, 1996 (Smith et al. 1997); Linn and Lane County (Steel et al. 1994b; Shindler et al. 1995); Oregon and National (Shindler et al. 1993; Steel et al. 1994a); Oregon Progress Board (OPB 1997).

Value Clusters

When stakeholders and communities of interest fall in the same place on many value continua, we have a value cluster. Comparing conservationism and preservationism illustrates how values cluster.

Traditional IndianEuropean
present orientedfuture orientated
harmony w/natureconquest over nature
respect ageidolize youth
spirituality integratedspirituality segmented
listen & observespeak & write
cultural pluralismassimilation
no eye-to-eyenose-to-nose

Adapted from This Conflict in Values Creates Stress, Anxiety, and Frustration, prepared by American Indian Education Commission

indigeneous valuesindustrial values
living sustainablyexploitive
natural lawcapitalistic
all things cyclicallinear
what you do not, you are accountable forimperialistic
reciprocal - giving backgreedy
language is animatecaused New World holocaust

Winona LaDuke (Ojibwa, Director of White Earth Recovery Project), Grantmakers in the Arts Newsletter, Autumn 1992 3(3):4-6

Value Change:

Values continually change. They are affected by the context, by new information, by the results of experiments and experiences. To learn more about change in values on environmental issues, see reports by such polling organizations as the Gallup Poll or the General Social Survey (GSS) by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC). See the Gallup Report, published monthly and the annual GSSNews, or the Annotated Bibliography of Papers Using the General Social Surveys.

Local and national organizations poll of the public. Among these are the NY Times, ABC News, USA Today, The Oregonian, the Oregon Business Council, the League of Conservation Voters, the National Wildlife Federation, the Sierra Club. Many of these organizations maintain websites with information from recent polls.

Summaries may be found in journals such as Public Opinion Quarterly or summaries like the Compendium of American Public Opinion, Attitudes Towards the Outdoors: An Annotated Bibliography of U.S. Survey and Poll Research Concerning the Environment, Wildlife, and Recreation, and Attitudes Toward the Environment: Twenty-Five Years After Earth Day. Specific authors also track changes in public values (Dunlap and Scare 1991; Dunlap and Mertig 1992; Kempton et al. 1995).

Value Analysis:

Value analysis involves understanding the values of individuals and communities of interest on environmental issues. The procedure consists of identifying the content of value continua and clusters for an environmental issue. The method of value analysis relies on content analysis, observation, and survey.


Determine the value content, continua, clusters, context, and change associated with the environmental issue. What are the value continua that are causing conflict? What values cluster together that may allow for cooperative action?

Select a value related to your environmental issue and:

  • State the environmental issue that interests you and identify all the documentation that you think is relevant. Summarize what you think the major content of value issue is.
  • What groups have an interest in this issue? Identify the communities of interest or stakeholders' views on the value issue. Identify specific individuals and groups.
    • Analyze how the stakeholders and communities of interest are organized to deal with the environmental issue.

    • Keep in mind that local, regional, state, and federal government agencies are one of the communities of interest in most environmental issues.

  • What is the content of values associated with each stakeholder and community of interest on this issue? Identify the primary value continua.
    • Avoid the use of indefinite pronouns such as "they," "their," and "those." Find out where people on a value continua. Be specific about who the people are.

    • Be specific and minimize the use of adjectives like "some," "many," "few." Identify who the "other" is. Tabulate who, how many, and how strong their feelings are.

  • Could these values be placed on a value continuum? Where would the stakeholders and communities of interest fit on the continuum?
  • What other values cluster with the value continua identified?
  • Identify a contextual factor that influences a community of interest or stakeholder.
  • Is the content of the values stable over time? Has there been a pattern of change toward one direction or another on the value continua? What causes the change observed?
  • Who makes decisions? Where do decisions get made? What is the locus of power? Identify who should act and what they should do.


Ways to measure values

  • conduct a survey
  • complete a content analysis

look at the verbs, e.g. should, ought, need,

look at the adjectives, e.g. good, bad, right, wrong, desirable, undesirable, acceptable, unacceptable

  • observe behavior
  • review voting patterns
  • study emotions - feelings are true expressions of values, feelings tend to be discounted
  • compare what people say and what they do, an example is the garbage project

Observers of values can be wrong in the data they use to judge values, and they can use good data but make the wrong inferences. Sometimes the views that one group holds of the values of another may be as important as the directly measuring views of a group.

If you choose to design a survey to measure people's values, consult a good survey design text (Salant and Dillman 1994) or take a course covering the proper approach. When designing a survey consider the following:

  • decide whether to use a mail, phone, or in-person survey.
  • establish the importance of the survey in the cover letter or introduction.
  • develop a survey structure that shows the response pattern without requiring extensive directions.
  • vary the response pattern. For attitude questions do not have all the question bias go in the same direction.
  • be sure to get comparative demographic information on the person responding. Match demographic questions with census or commonly used statistical categories.
  • decide on the type of questions. For statistical analysis closed-end questions are most useful. To learn more about respondent's views use open-ended questions.
  • watch the question order and response order
  • use boxes or blanks not letters or numbers for response categories.
  • keep some questions open-ended.
  • strive for clarity, clarity, clarity.
  • then simplify, simplify, simplify.
  • work for brevity, brevity, brevity. Use your hypotheses to reduce the number of questions.
  • watch the use of language. Will the survey population understand the terms? If you have to define a term, consider a more generic word. Will the survey population detect bias in the wording of questions?
  • think ahead to the coding and analysis. Do some practice coding and analysis. See if you are creating problems for yourself.
  • where possible use questions developed by others and for which there are comparative results.
  • pretest your survey on a range of people who represent the population of potential respondents.

Henerson (1987:13) gives the following suggestions on attitude measurement:

  • when measuring attitudes, rely on inference, since measuring attitudes directly is impossible.

  • attitudes, beliefs, and feelings will not always match. Do not focus on one manifestation of an attitude---this may distort our picture of the situation and mislead us.

  • the attitude being measured does not stand still in time, it can fluctuate and gathering it on one occasion may not be adequate.

  • attitudes have no universal nature that is agreed upon.

Values Summary:

  • are what people think is right or wrong, good or bad, desirable or undesirable.
  • are inferred from language, statements, action, behaviors, responses to polls and surveys.
  • may but do not always govern action.
  • vary within a group.
  • are reflected in stereotypes, when you stereotype you tell more about yourself than others.
  • are numerous and have many different forms.
  • interact with one another.
  • may not be mutually consistent.
  • change priority with the value context.
  • are difficult to refute.

Updated:Friday, 17-Sep-1999 14:34:57 PDT URL is