Diverse Perspectives on Human Behavior Enrich Conservation

"The structural relations within and between human societies and their environments

form the most complex systems known to science."

​~Charles D. Laughlin and Ivan Brady, 1978

Understanding human behavior is essential to conservation. The innate complexity of human behavior manifests as a diversity of perspectives scattered across scientific disciplines and non-scientific domains. This diversity compels individuals to apply different simplifications, i.e., adopt philosophical and value-laden prescriptions, delimit different explanatory variables, and employ specific means of data collection and analysis. Researchers and practitioners often reduce and simplify  complexity to make tractable measurements and useful predictions. Some scholars, perhaps encumbered by the diversity or complexity of approaches to view human behavior, either work solely within a single research tradition (framework) regardless of context, or attempt to reconcile diversity by integrating theories and models into a unifying frameworks, which tends to imply near universal applicability.

This ongoing project contends that the diversity of frameworks that explore human behavior is reflective of its underlying complexity. Holding to a single framework or unify multiple frameworks risks losing diversity and plurality that enables understanding of complex issues, such as those facing contemporary conservation. Awareness and appreciation of multiple frameworks enriches conservation science, practice, and policy as different perspectives on human behavior lead to different answers to different questions at different scales. We emphasize that the consequence of a chosen framework determines and limits what we can say about the issue, and how and what we can interpret and conclude. Through a case study of indigenous arctic hunting and conservation, we also demonstrate that different conceptualizations and operationalizations of human behavior often lead to complementary and novel perspectives that would otherwise be inaccessible from a singular or unified perspective.


Human Dimensions
Conservation  |  Natural Resources
People  |  Behavior  |  Action

© 2020 by Kenneth E. Wallen