How do scientist study the connection between nature and society?

by Hanneke van  't Veen


To understand why certain management regimes work and others do not, as well as to understand why people chose certain products over others, researchers need to dig deep into society. Often these processes are inherit to culture, society, norms of people, the trust people have in each other and the government, welfare, morals, standards and even religion. This cocktail of variables can produce completely different outcomes of management of natural resources on a local, regional and global scale. For instance, where privatization works really well in Europe, it does not always work in Asia, and where communal management works very well in some villages it does not in others. Besides this, where certain awareness projects work very well in the US they do not in Brazil for instance.  

These effects are often difficult to measure and require a deeper understanding of the behavior of people around the world. Therefore, an approach is necessary that does not produce numbers but maps out the views and opinions of individuals or groups of people. From all this qualitative information patterns can be extracted that explain human behavior. So qualitative research aims to unravel exactly why people behave in certain ways and what their origin is! An example of a qualitative study that tried to understand human behavior is the ethnographic study of Matthey Desmond. In this book ‘Evicted: Poverty and profit in an American city’. During his study he followed several families to understand why in particular these families are so prone to eviction and how poverty is related to this. If he had not carried out this study, the poverty enhancing effect of eviction might have never been understood based on quantitative data only.