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Discourses of wellbeing and environmental impact of trail runners in protected areas in New Zealand and the United Kingdom

Macbride-Stewart, Sara ORCID: 2019. Discourses of wellbeing and environmental impact of trail runners in protected areas in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Geoforum 107 , pp. 134-142. 10.1016/j.geoforum.2019.09.015

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The idea that protected areas (PAs) have both environmental-protection and human-welfare aims seems a relatively straightforward though strained proposition, largely resolved by prioritising conservation activities and restricting human activities. However, it is not a straightforward relationship. PAs are understood as contributing to human wellbeing in the context of the wider promotion of greenspace benefits for human health. Hence, the role of environmental protection may touch on the limits of our positive understandings of the wellbeing benefits of nature. It is for this reason that this study seeks to understand discourses and practices of wellbeing that shape the experiences of the users of PAs, to identify implications for both environmental and wellbeing policies. Focusing on trail runners who actively seek out the experience of ‘being in nature’ for running, the research examines how participants mobilise and integrate wellbeing and environmental discourses. The study reports on data collected in two separate trail-running events (UK/NZ). Multiple data collection methods were used, including an online survey, ‘go-along’ interviews, and ‘vox-pop’ interviews, to generate a rich dataset. The PA experience allows for an intimate and personal sense of wellbeing, yet is shaped by discourses that reflect an individualised, commodified and instrumental approach to nature, in which nature is largely used as a resource for wellbeing. Environmental conservation concerns are considered important but remain largely secondary to these wellbeing discourses. Runners remain concerned with their right to use PAs for wellbeing. The comparative element of this research reveals that the balance between rights versus responsibilities is closely linked to local environmental discourses and practices. While PAs may be desirable spaces for exercise, wellbeing is only ambiguously or simplistically related to discourses of environmental impact. An exploration of wellbeing means also touching on issues about the usefulness of this concept for ensuring environmental protection goals are met in PAs.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACES)
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0016-7185
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 2 October 2019
Date of Acceptance: 30 September 2019
Last Modified: 06 Nov 2023 23:35

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