Paper recommendation: Metaphors to understand human-environment relationships

By Joern Fischer

Recommendation of Raymond et al. (2013). Ecosystem Services and Beyond: Using Multiple Metaphors to Understand Human-Environment Relationships. BioScience.

Many different ways have been put forward to conceptualize the relationship between people and nature. Often, authors have an implicit understanding of what they believe to be the key features of this relationship. When different implicit understandings meet, this can lead to communication barriers (at best) or unproductive discussions or even arguments (at worst).


In this paper, Raymond et al. provide an elegant schematic overview to consider some of the most common ways in which human-environment relationships are being conceptualized. They distinguish between views focusing on “economic production”, on reciprocal links (“closed-loop production”), on “stewardship”, on the “web of life”, and on all life being part of an “ecocultural community”. Each of these metaphors for conceptualizing human-environment relationships, in turn, has a different ethical basis, different objectives, different indicators of success – as well as different strengths and limitations, depending on the context.

The paper is a very nice overview that brings some clarity into different ways of understanding human-environment relationships. Being more explicit about such alternative “metaphors” will be useful to advance future research.

One thought on “Paper recommendation: Metaphors to understand human-environment relationships

  1. Pingback: ¿Cuánto vale un humedal? | articulaciones

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