Towards Understanding the Development of Connectedness-to-Nature, and its Role in Land Conservation Behaviour
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Exploitation of natural resources for human consumption and development has led to widespread loss of habitat and biodiversity. To address this issue, policy has largely focused on protecting large parcels of public land. However, a purely public approach has proven insufficient at addressing the issue, which is exacerbated in densely populated areas such as southern Ontario. The recognition that public lands alone are unable to address land conservation issues has led to widespread acceptance that private land conservation is required to compliment existing public efforts. Given the relatively recent focus on private land conservation in most jurisdictions, fairly little is known about private landowner conservation behaviour. Traditional social-psychological models have been applied to understand general pro-environmental behaviours with mixed results. Connectedness-to-nature theory has also been applied towards understanding various pro-environmental behaviours, but has not focused on land-conservation behaviour specifically. Using a grounded theory approach, this thesis explores which factors might lead to the development of connectedness-to-nature. Further, this study explores the role that connectedness-to-nature plays in explaining land conservation behaviour. Three major interconnected categories emerged from analysis and interpretation. First, unstructured time spent in nature, and guidance from mentors may be important factors in the development of connectedness-to-nature. Second, landowners who feel connected to nature may be more inclined to see conservation as a land use priority. Finally, results suggest that landowners have strong, affective relationships with nature as it exists on their land developed over time, beginning with the initial rural lifestyle decision. Results suggest that land conservation behaviours are complex and represent specific types of pro-environmental behaviours. Connectedness-to-nature alone may be insufficient at explaining land conservation behaviours. Applying and integrating various social-psychological models that have been previously applied to general pro-environmental behaviours may further our understanding of land conservation behaviour.