Giving Voice to the Experiential Value of Natural Environments

By Herbert W. Schroeder

(June 1, 2012) – People value natural environments in many different ways. In addition to the various tangible products and benefits that can be produced from a natural environment, people may also find value in their immediate experience of the environment while they are in it. This experiential value is an important aspect of quality of life for many people, but it is often not taken into account in making decisions about managing natural environments.

In part, this is because the experiential value of the environment can be difficult for people to express in words. This article explores how first-person methods from experiential and phenomenological psychology may help in giving voice to the ineffable experiential value of natural environments.

Drawing on the work of Charles Lewis, Eugene Gendlin, and Kenneth Shapiro, the article illustrates how an initially inarticulate, bodily felt sense of the experiential value of a natural environment can be explicated in a way that both expresses and carries forward the implicit sense of value. Such practices might serve as a basis for an environmental decision-making process that incorporates the hard-to-express experiential values of nature.

Herbert W. Schroeder is an environmental psychologist, recently retired from the USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station in Evanston, Illinois.

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Giving Voice to the Experiential Value of Natural Environments