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Human–nature connectedness as a ‘treatment’ for pro-environmental behavior: making the case for spatial considerations


The degree to which an individual feels connected to the natural world can be a positive predictor of pro-environmental behavior (PEB). This has led to calls to ‘reconnect to nature’ as a ‘treatment’ for PEB. What is not clear is the relationship between where one feels connected to nature and where one acts pro-environmentally. We propose that integrating spatial scale into the conceptualization of these constructs will provide insights into how different degrees of connectedness influence pro-environmental behavior. We discuss trends towards a spatial understanding of human–nature connectedness (HNC) and introduce three archetypes that highlight scalar relationships between scale of connectedness and scale of pro-environmental behavior: (1) equal interactions, (2) embedded interactions, and (3) extended interactions. We discuss potential policy and practice implications of taking a spatially explicit approach to HNC–PEB research, and propose a research agenda for investigating these scalar relationships that can inform nature as a ‘treatment’ intervention.

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This research is supported by the VolkswagenStiftung and the Niedersächsisches Ministerium für Wissenshaft und Kultur funded project “Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation: Institutions, People and Knowledge” (Grant number A112269). The authors thank Christopher D. Ives, Maraja Riechers, Christian Dorninger, and Ioana A. Duse for their helpful feedback during the development of this paper.

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Correspondence to Kathleen Klaniecki.

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Handled by Graham Epstein, University of Waterloo Faculty of Environment, Canada.

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Klaniecki, K., Leventon, J. & Abson, D.J. Human–nature connectedness as a ‘treatment’ for pro-environmental behavior: making the case for spatial considerations. Sustain Sci 13, 1375–1388 (2018).

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  • Nature connectedness
  • Pro-environmental behavior
  • Local-to-global scales
  • Nature as treatment
  • Sustainability