Within conservation, there is currently great concern that there are shifts in society’s environmental values that will lead to declines in support for conservation. To provide some empirical evidence to underpin this discussion, we qualitatively analysed each of the manifestos released by the bi-decadal global UN Habitat conferences held in Vancouver 1976, Istanbul 1996 and Quito 2016. Separate typologies of environmental values and nature-related terminology were constructed based on the literature and initial analysis of the documents. Each manifesto was then coded against these typologies. Thematic analysis of the coded documents was used to explore variations in the dominance and diversity of different environmental values and terminology over time.
Results show that expressions of environmental values were expressed in a similar proportion (6.6-7.8%) of each document. Utilitarian values dominated the Vancouver Declaration. In Istanbul’s The Habitat Agenda, intrinsic (e.g. nature conservation) and economic values were most prevalent, and nature-related social and health-wellbeing values less prevalent than in the other manfestos. Experiential values were less prevalent in Quito's New Urban Agenda. Overall, utilitarian, economic, intrinsic, and health-wellbeing values were well represented across the Habitat documents, but social, cultural and experiential values less well expressed. There were large shifts in terminology evident across the documents, with “natural resources’’ dominating the Vancouver Declaration, triple bottom line (social-economic-environmental) The Urban Agenda, and natural disasters and biodiversity more prevalent in the New Urban Agenda. However, nature largely remains separate from everyday life in cities – either to be protected, feared or consumed. Hopefully Habitat IV in 2036 will more fully integrate nature into the fabric of urban living in the 21st century.