The Life Framework of Values and living as nature; towards a full recognition of holistic and relational ontologies

Jasper O. Kenter*, Seb O’Connor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
153 Downloads (Pure)


The Life Framework of Values links the richness of ways we experience and think of nature with the diverse ways nature matters. In this paper, we further develop and clarify the Life Framework in response to comments by Neuteleers et al. (Sustain Sci 14(1):4, 2020, 10.1007/s11625-020-00825-7). They supported its application to move beyond the instrumentalism and anthropocentrism associated with ecosystem services and nature’s contributions to people, but were critical of our addition of the living as nature frame to O’Neill et al.’s (Environmental values. Routledge, London, 2008) original three (living from, in and with the natural world), and of the way we defined intrinsic and relational values. We argue that the original presentation of the frames was as distinct sources of concern for nature. The living as frame, characterised by oneness between nature and people, presents a unique source of concern not adequately represented by the original three frames. Whilst the Life Framework is open to diverse definitions of intrinsic, instrumental, and relational values, we present straightforward interpretations that are compatible with multiple ethical systems and can effectively serve deliberative processes. We demonstrate that intrinsic, instrumental, and relational values do not map onto the life frames one-to-one, as each frame layers multiple value justifications. Whilst a key purpose of the Life Framework is to facilitate recognition of a more inclusive set of values in valuation and policy, it can also enable more effective organisation, communication, assessment, bridging and deliberation of values. It also provides multiple levers for sustainability transformation, particularly by fully recognising holistic and relational understandings of people and nature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2529-2542
Number of pages14
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number6
Early online date28 Jul 2022
Publication statusPrint publication - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by UK Research and Innovation through the Valuing Nature Programme (NE/P00783X/1) and White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities (AH/L503848/1).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Environmental ethics
  • Environmental governance
  • Environmental justice
  • Post-normal science
  • Relational worldviews


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