“The links between Euskera and nature values”
A new study points to the role of languages in shaping values about nature
Findings suggests that the Basque language influences the way people value local forests, mainly through cultural identity and attachment to the place
(Bilbao, 19th April, 2021) To address the growing loss of biodiversity worldwide, scientists have begun to focus on the plural values of nature, believing that a better understanding of the diverse ways in which people benefit from or find meaning in nature will help to find more and better reasons and motivations to conserve it.
Researchers from the University of Bristol and Basque Centre for Climate Change looks at the links between nature’s values and language in the journal People and Nature. The study provides theoretical as well as empirical analysis of such links. The case study took place in the Pyrenean foothills of the Basque country, a region of considerable linguistic and biological diversity. Inglis and Pascual examine the values that individuals and communities share in relation to the local mountain forests of Irati and Arbailles. The fieldwork involved more than a hundred participants and used a mixed methodology, including interviews, group discussions and the semi-quantitative Q method.
According to Dylan Inglis, one of the authors, “when we began fieldwork, we didn’t know exactly where and how any links would emerge, but as the methodology and data analysis progressed, it became clear that a significant group of people in the region made explicit links between the forest and their attachment to the Basque language”.
Unai Pascual, the other author , “it is essential to better understand the diversity of the values of nature in order to tackle the loss of biodiversity worldwide. In addition to providing material goods for nature, it is also important for our mental well-being, cultural identity and attachment to place, although there has been insufficient little emphasis on these relationships in policy.” Professor Pascual was surprised that language had not been considered in these values so far “because relationships with languages in multilingual societies influence people’s daily lives, not only in the Basque Country: most societies in the world are multilingual”. He argues that “the links found between language and the values about nature could constitute a novel lever for language and nature conservation movements,” and thus emphasises the “need to explore these links in other parts of the world”.
The Basque Centre for Climate Change (BC3) is an international interdisciplinary research centre based in Bilbao for the study of climate change promoted by the Basque Government to promote science and research. The centre, which is one of the BERC (Basque Excellence Research Center) and the María de Maeztu centres, has among its partners Ikerbasque, the University of the Basque Country and Ihobe, the Basque Society for the Management and Conservation of the Environment.