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Environmental Values


A variety of factors shape environmental policy & governance (EPG) processes, from perceptions of physical ecology and profit motives to social justice and landscape aesthetics concerns. Many scholars have examined the role of values in EPG, and demonstrated that attempts to incorporate (especially) nonmarket values into EPG are loaded with both practical and conceptual challenges. Nevertheless, it is clear that nonmarket values of all types play a crucial role in shaping EPG outcomes. In this paper, we explore the role of nostalgia as a factor in EPG. We examine literatures on environmental values, governance, and affect in light of their relationships to environmental policymaking, first as a means to decide whether or not nostalgia can be rightly described as an ‘environmental value.’ We suggest that, from a philosophical perspective, nostalgia is by itself environmentally neutral, and is not usefully described as a ‘value’. However, as an emotional state that longs to preserve or recover something of the past – whether fading or no longer present – that is fondly remembered, nostalgia does represent a potentially strong ‘motivator’ for EPG decisions. Despite this somewhat ambivalent assessment of nostalgia-as-environmental-value, we argue that nostalgia and nostalgic longing to return to the ‘better’ or ‘cleaner’ environments can lead to potentially significant impacts on ecosystems and landscapes, both positive and negative depending on what it is that people want to preserve or restore. Thus we conclude that we neglect understanding the role of nostalgia in EPG at our peril: first, because preservationist goals have always been an important part of environmental responsibility and second, because many people will be swayed regarding environmental action through a mobilization of nostalgia by political leaders and interest groups alike. We end our article with suggestion of avenues for further empirical investigation.


This is a pre-print version of an article published by White Horse Press, which holds the copyright.