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Title: From William James to twenty-first century landowners : perspectives on private land conservation
Author: Gooden, Jennifer
ISNI:       0000 0004 7966 0940
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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Recent years have witnessed increased global policy interest in private land conservation as a complement to state-owned protected areas. At present, the scale of private land conservation remains unknown, but it appears to be increasing in terms of both spatial extent and number of individuals involved. It is relatively prevalent in regions where high biodiversity value and strong private property rights regimes overlap, including North America, parts of Latin America, Australia, western and northern Europe, and eastern and southern Africa. The voluntary nature of private conservation efforts necessitates an understanding of landowners' motivations as a prerequisite to policy engagement. However, despite decades of research on landowners' conservation activity, there is a gap in our understanding of the factors that motivate individuals to create private nature reserves and other privately conserved areas (PCAs). This thesis aims to address that gap, exploring the factors that motivate people who purchase or create PCAs. In this thesis, I take an American pragmatist philosophical perspective. Pragmatism's commitments to instrumentalism and meliorism influence my scope of questioning about human motivation, and dedications to pluralism, radical empiricism, and fallibilism are manifest in my research design, which begins with an inductive analysis of PCA owners' narratives about their involvement in private land conservation. Methods include applications of grounded theory methodology, theoretical analysis, and Q methodology, and data include interviews with people who owned land in in 13 countries, interviews with conservation practitioners, and Q sort results. Findings are situated and illuminated in the context of psychological literature on locus of motivation, identity, and self-determination theory. Results reveal that the appeal of owning a PCA is due, in part, to its prudential value, or the contribution it makes to a landowner's well-being. PCAs provide prudential value not only through personal co-benefits of conservation land ownership, such as opportunity for beneficence, direct experience, demonstration, and investment, but also through their status as personal projects that engage landowners in meaningful activity. This engagement is enhanced to the extent that PCAs provide opportunity for landowners to experience autonomy, efficacy, and social connection. PCAs are integrated in their owners' sense of self through multiple pathways of identity incorporation. This thesis confirms that land conservation motives are multiple and layered, yet it also finds patterns of engagement that broadly characterize PCA owners. The findings provide an alternative to existing accounts of motivation offered for private land conservation, within which motives are attributed to either conservation values or incentives. The work instead shows that psychological benefits, including those that confer prudential value, are a significant driver of conservation, and, furthermore, that conservation action and human well-being can be aligned. Finally, the research demonstrates that qualitative, exploratory methods such as grounded theory have utility for conservation psychology, yielding insights into human action that would not otherwise be readily apparent.
Supervisor: Clark, Gordon ; Grenyer, Richard Sponsor: Earthmind
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Geography ; Psychology ; Biodiversity conservation