As far as level-headed decision-makers are concerned, any practical human activity focuses on making the transition from the past into the future. Driving market forces are teleological in nature, while individuals who pursue conscious objectives are teleological sources of market forces. Seen from this perspective, environmental aims are standards to which ecological activities are or will be subordinated, and their definition within a distinct hierarchical system of aims is the most important element in planning environmental institutional changes . Environmental objectives can be either explicit or implicit. They manifest themselves through a certain behavioural standard. A mismatch of aims leads to teleological conflicts. Reducing their intensity requires additional transaction costs which can on occasions severely constrain environmental activity.
Findings from our research have revealed the undisputed value of teleological studies as a means of harmonising relations in a system of interaction of humans, nature, and the society. However, as an independent scientific approach, it is not so well developed and is mainly referred to within this branch of knowledge as strategic management, systems theory, government economic policy, public administration, and strategic regional planning.
It should be said that the use of a teleological approach goes back centuries . I. Kant, whilst not dismissing other types of knowledge, emphasised in his work “A critique of judgement” that teleology is neither theology nor a natural science. Whilst not overstating this particular branch of knowledge and critically defining the limits in applying teleological reasoning to a metaphysical interpretation of the world in general, Kant stressed that “understanding the special links and forms of nature involves yet another principle which allows it to be incorporated within certain rules where the laws of mechanical causation are inadequate” . Kant’s theory is now widely regarded as being critical in determining approaches for identifying constraints and opportunities for a target-driven influence on socio-cultural systems which are one of the fundamental problems associated with the theory of sustainable development.
The establishment of theoretical frameworks for goal setting in modern strategic management is discussed in the works of academics such as I. Ansoff, Tekiro Kono, M. Porter, A.G. Strickland, A.A. Thompson, A.N. Petrov et al. These authors focus specifically on the status of target setting within the management process, structural issues, prioritising aims and creating mechanisms for their implementation that take changes in external and internal factors into account. The essence and classification of objectives, together with the principles and features of target setting within State management, have been explored in works by G.V. Atamanchuk, N.I. Glazunova, V.G. Ignatov, V.A. Kozbanenko et al. The characteristics of regional systems as an objective of goal setting have been discussed in works by A.G. Granberg, S.S. Artobolevsky, I.I. Sigov, M.J. Makhotaeva et al.
Following a critical appraisal and appreciation of the various conceptual theories advanced by these authors, we concluded that Russian science has yet to come up with a theoretical and methodological rationale for an integrated solution to the issue of goal setting in managing the development of territorial ecological and socio-economic systems. Hardly any work has been done on problems relating to the theory and methodology of target setting in environmental management, or on a scientific framework for preventing emerging teleological disagreements. To this end, Cadaster Institute is undertaking some ground-breaking research into the issue of goal setting and methods for preventing teleological conflicts in the environmental sector which include developing theoretical guidelines and methodological frameworks for target setting in environmental management and measures aimed at preventing teleological disagreements, as well as integrated studies into improving environmental planning.
On the philosophical and methodological level, we believe that ideas about environmental aims and accessible means for achieving them do not come along by themselves, but as a unique reflection of a vision of the future. Environmental goals are determined by those who manage key resources  according to a value-based system. On the other hand, these targets are set based on the results of natural-scientific research. In order to secure stable long-term success, resource managers must be constantly working towards integrating individual goals with a set of moral values inherent in society. Consequently, a non-hierarchical and multipolar system of goals is created to which the latter bring a degree of uncertainty and inconsistency.
In developing a theory and methodology for goal setting in environmental management, we have taken account of the dual nature of target setting as recognised by P. Ricoeur, who stressed that human existence lies in a continuum, with “causation without motivation” at one end, and “motivation without causation” at the other. “Man is an entity made up in equal measure by elements of causation, motivation, reasoning and understanding” . With this in mind and linked to research on formulating objectives and priorities in natural resource management and the disagreements that arise as a result, it is now more than ever important to focus not on explaining, but understanding knowledge that is characterised by a combination of two epistemic institutions – the enduring value of the phenomenon of nature or culture, together with their uniqueness, fragility and irreplaceability. The value of intuition informs an understanding of such knowledge and can, in the spirit of M. Weber, be regarded as “rationality according to value”.
Taking the above into account, in selecting a methodological framework for research into the problems of formulating aims and priorities for natural resource use, the phenomena inherent in the existing use of natural resources in every Place, particular individuals and human communities, we have relied heavily on the work of the following hermeneutists and cultural specialists: J. Habermas, H-G. Gadamer and M. Heidegger . Having said that, we feel it is just as important to undertake cultural and geographical research in order to achieve a greater understanding of people’s motivations for different natural resource use priorities.
Choosing an approach for a study of target setting in terms of a geography both of perception and of the world that are formed in the public’s consciousness must of necessity assume an interactive knowledge of the world and self-knowledge, a project-standard approach to research, a departure from an in-depth and objective view of things (especially when agreeing research tasks), and a statement of a personal spiritual attitude and participation. We fully agree with A.E. Levintov  that a new paradigm requires the use of new methods and resources, mainly hermeneutic. The latter refer to the means of social and organisational design, imitation, business, role-playing, situational and organised activity games.
We have devoted particular attention in our research to preventing and reducing the intensity of teleological disagreements, as well as developing appropriate logarithms in studying issues relating to goal setting in environmental management. This is dictated by the inseparable nature of the choice of environmental objectives in terms of their value-standard orientation, as well as by a conflict of aims. There is a very obvious clash here of various, and sometimes conflicting, interpretations of aims for social growth which are reflected by a particular view of the world held by different socio-cultural communities. Consequently, teleological conflicts can play a major role in environmental activities, but mainly in a socio-cultural context. Indeed, it is mainly through teleological disagreements that a socio-cultural framework can actively influence environmental institutional change.
There are many definitions of the word conflict . In general, one can say that it comes to the fore when there is an incompatibility of actions between the parties involved. Although many different types of conflict have been discussed by P.A. Sorokin, A.G. Zdravomislov, C. Chase-Dunn, A.Ya. Antsupov, A.I. Shipilov , no one generally accepted meaning has emerged. Most descriptions of conflicts differ according to how many people are involved, who participate either directly or indirectly, the intensity of the disagreement, the nature of interaction, the reasons for the conflict (ethnic, religious, ideological etc.) and what people were arguing about (territory, resources, sphere of influence).
The characteristics of environmental conflicts are linked to an increased emphasis on value and target-driven components. Value disputes whose origins lie in cultural, religious and ideological traditions and standards are extremely difficult to resolve. A number of authors have emphasised just how impossible it is to prevent them (A. Toynbee, S. Huntingdon et al.)x. However, one fact that provides some hope for eventual success in these efforts in the environmental sector is that demands for an ecological ethic can be found in most religions.
Disagreements in determining environmental objectives (teleological) are more varied, and their origins can lie not only in terms of value judgements, but also in the intellectual differences of those involved. The latter arise in a single civilisation or culture. Many of these disagreements can be managed as well as prevented by using different instruments. A detailed multi-dimensional analysis can determine potential approaches for influencing a conflict which provides useful information that can be used in the area of regulation through the use of instruments. It is particularly important that specific research is undertaken in order to study the spatially-temporal aspects of the motivation for environmental activity and in identifying potential areas of conflict.
Teleological research into the environmental field conducted by Cadaster Institute has shown the increasing significance of data received in terms of spreading the idea of sustainable development given the latter suggests achieving a future, already predetermined state of society. More attention is now being devoted to the study of spiritual, ethical and moral aspects of environmental management. Moreover, the relevance of such research is increasing with the rising recognition within society of the need to encourage active public involvement and responsible behaviour in achieving sustainable development goals and preventing the growth of value-judgement conflicts. To this end and guided by methodologies for a socio-cultural approach to environmental management, we are not only recognising but studying (from a theoretical and integrated perspective) multivariate future events as seen through the world view of different socio-cultural groups. The need to reach a mutual understanding to reduce environmental risks and, more broadly, prevent the threat of a global ecological crisis is crucial if we are to find unifying moral values, without which there can be no consensus.
Raising the status of goal-setting in the area of sustainable development is now regarded as an important incentive in developing a “green” economy . On the one hand, setting sustainability objectives increases costs incurred by polluters, and on the other, create an economic value as regards new ecological goods and services, and thus encouraging the flow of capital from “brown” to “green” business sectors. For example, without the imposition of environmental regulations on discharges of pollutants, it is hard to imagine the growth in alternative energy industries, as well as clean-up equipment, production control measures etc.
Research we have undertaken in a number of Russian regions (including Yaroslavl, Nizhny Novgorod, Moscow) has shown that analysing the practice of formulating objectives and priorities for natural resource use, as well as identifying potential conflict areas, is a sensible approach to adopt, not only from “above” but also from “below”.
The “from above” regional level approach is based on the objectives for global sustainability of the biosphere; on aims developed at the federal level; and in catchment-based programmes. Citizens of the Russian Federation, particularly those at the local level, are encouraged to come up with ways of implementing these objectives. With this largely equitable (from the standpoint of ensuring biosphere equilibrium) approach, an issue arises in terms of human development that fails to take into account people’s views on the development of their native land. Consequently, many programmes that have been developed based on this approach cannot be implemented since proposed goals which are often consistent with global sustainable development principles seem alien and counter to the interests of people living in particular regions.
With a “from below” approach, formulating objectives for sustainable natural resource use and environmental protection at an individual of the Russian Federation level are implemented according to generalised aims that have been established in municipal areas. With such an approach, aims that will form the basis of a region’s action plan, together with those of municipal areas, are determined through an assessment of the following factors: (1) Which of humans’ activities are of most concern to those living in particular areas; (2) What are the most serious problems in the area of sustainable natural resource use and environmental protection that cause concern to people in terms of their value preferences; (3) What have been the most effective methods in achieving priorities in the current situation. However, there is a danger that just using a “from below” approach will not allow global rules of growth, together with environmental constraints and regulations etc. , to be properly taken into account.
Among the objectives for sustainable natural resource use and environmental protection that are common to various levels within a regional organisation, differences exist that can soon develop into social conflicts. Experience gained from our regional research indicates that considerable attention needs to be focused on disagreements that initially arise as a result of a mismatch of environmental aims of important groups of influence (teleological conflicts); secondly, those arising from ethical differences (ethical disputes) and thirdly those generated through differing motivations of individuals at the micro level. Nevertheless, it is only when there is consensus among all interested parties on priorities for sustainable natural resource use, as well as on the actions required to achieve them which have been identified using a mix of “from above” and “from below” approaches that they can be fully incorporated within programme and planning documents as guidelines for drawing up and implementing action plans and in further determination of territorial development policies.
Research undertaken by Cadaster Institute has shown that managing teleological (target driven) conflicts is possible in two ways: (A) By connecting environmental objectives within a single region, accompanied by aims formulated for different levels in a regional organisation; and (B) through formalising socio-cultural traditions that define environmental constraints and regulations.
A comprehensive system of environmental objectives within a single region, accompanied by aims established for different levels within a regional organisation should be regarded as the most important component of strategic regional planning at the sustainable level. The main objectives are global, continental, national, catchment-based, regional, local and those of individual natural resource users. These aims are generally contradictory. In identifying potential areas of compromise, one can use an “integrated” approach which concentrates on conflict prevention , particularly where priority environmental aims are agreed in parallel, i.e. “from below” and “from above”.
In order to identify conflicts of aims, we have used a matrix developed by G.A. Fomenko in 1996 to compare natural resource use aims which provides a complete picture, combining priorities for natural resource use and environmental protection at various levels within a regional organisation. The matrix highlights areas of agreement and conflict, where the search for compromise is necessary and which is included in determining an important aim, as well as analysing other objectives as factors that can encourage or limit its success. With such a method, aims agreed at the highest management levels, including international, national and catchment-based, form an overall target-based approach that defines the spatial institutional sector where compromise with aims established at lower management levels is required.
B. Formalising socio-cultural traditions around spiritually important Places and objects that have natural and cultural significant and bring people together around a common goal can, in effect, facilitate constructive institutional changes. The Romans knew all about this calling it “The Spirit of the Place” (Genius Loci) which describes the special essence of a local area or population. According to legend, every independent entity has its own spirit and guardian angel. “The Spirit of the Place” is most clearly captured in symbols and myths  that reflect a region’s character and is now becoming the most important environmental institution that promotes social engagement.
Regional figures that have myths attached to them increase their appeal, making them more attractive to people’s lives, business growth and encourage environmental innovation. Therefore, identifying the socio-cultural nucleus (dominant) of a region’s growth, concentrating on an area’s unique symbols and mythological images, as well as strengthening formal institutions should be regarded as an important means for facilitating institutional environmental change. Attributing poetic images to places and identifying special socio-cultural dominants of growth, which increase the perceived value of a Place to every resident, is particularly relevant in Russian regions given the country’s poor history of private property rights, together with weak traditions in local government and in the development of collective compromise decisions.