The bidirectionality of Swiss alpine farmers’ relational values
Mollie Chapman (ETHZ) mit Anna Deplazes Zemp
In both academic and policy circles, significant debate concerns the reasons for protecting nature. To date, two approaches have been predominant. One approach focuses on the intrinsic value of nature, in other words, protecting nature for its own sake. The second approach focuses on the instrumental value of nature, in other words, the ways that nature is useful for humans. However, these two approaches (intrinsic and instrumental) fail to capture the full spectrum of ways that people value nature. A third category, “relational values,” focuses on the relationships of people to nature and natural entities.
We conducted over 30 qualitative interviews with farmers to better understand their relational values and relationships to nature. We selected the Lower Engadin and Münster Valleys for our study due to the difficult ecological conditions and continued traditions of the alp-based farming system, which required farmers to adapt and work with natural conditions. The adjacent Swiss National Park and Biosphere Reserve provided further context to explore the idea of nature and nature relationships.
We found three key relational values of farmers in the study region. We describe each using a framework developed by Deplazes-Zemp and Chapman that focuses on the concept of ‘bidirectionality,’ or the give and take of relational values. We also studied farmers’ relationships to nature more broadly. We found that most farmers described their relationship to nature as a partnership. This mirrored the bi-direcctionality found within the more specific relational values to farm animals, wild animals and place. Overall, we found that farmers expressed a rich variety of connections to and relationships with nature. We hope these results can be used to develop more effective collaboration between nature protection and agriculture.