To understand how these moral frameworks influence environmental management, Jacqui’s DECRA project is focused on developing a series of case studies situated along the Great Barrier Reef.
From Townsville, Jacqui says she has the perfect vantage point to engage with the many different people and groups who have interests in this unique environment. “Having the Reef as an anchor point for this project is interesting because it’s very much the canary in the coal mine of climate change,” she says.
“Not only is the Reef at the centre of a lot of change, including attempts to manage it fairly, but there are also really diverse groups in this space — there are people involved in conservation, mining, farming, defence and tourism. The Reef serves as a really good case study of a region that has diverse moral leanings and values.
“I’m excited to start this research because there’s currently a wealth of theory and study around morality,” Jacqui says. “The fields of moral psychology and moral sociology, for example, are really blossoming. It’s a wonderful opportunity to apply these theories to different environmental case studies and think about how moral values play out in places that are facing big challenges like climate and environmental change.”
In each case study, Jacqui will investigate how moral values frame communities’ interactions with the environment. “One example is how people interact with sharks,” she says. “There’s a huge tension between what people want and their approaches, whether that’s conserving or culling sharks. Some people are frustrated about the impacts of sharks on their fishing throughout the Reef, while conservation groups are concerned about shark populations declining worldwide. So, you get these clashes in morals and it’s important to work through understanding the underlying moral values at play.”
Jacqui says much of this research can provide new insights for future policy directions to tackle environmental challenges. “My hope is that by uncovering the moral frameworks that drive people’s engagement with the environment, we might be able to better align the policies and plans for dealing with an uncertain future,” she says.
“The plan is for this research to enable better two-way communication between people who have different moral framings. The hope is that it will lead to better and fairer futures for people who are facing big challenges in this region of the world.”