Date of Award

2002

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (Hons.)

Faculty

Faculty of Computing, Health and Science.

First Advisor

Associate Professor Pierre Horwitz

Second Advisor

Dr. Moira O'Connor

Abstract

The complex relationships between people and places have been investigated by philosophic and scientific writers of the 19th and 20th centuries and more recently by researchers within the discipline of environmental psychology. A plethora of concepts have been developed to describe the relationship between people and their environments, including place identity and place attachment. Complex relationships exist between place identity, place attachment and the physical environment. Despite this, research situated within the discipline of environmental management, which addresses changes within the biophysical environment, rarely considers the psychological impacts of such change on individuals interacting within those environments. This study investigates the relationship between environmental change and place identity and attachment. An in depth qualitative study design was adopted in order to gain a holistic and context bound representation of the phenomenon under study. This study utilised an existing collection of transcribed interviews, originally collected for the purposes of a documentary investigating the environmental and social impacts of broadacre farming on community members from the south coast of Western Australia. Thematic content analysis was employed in this study, to identify emergent themes and construct an understanding of the meanings attributed to individual experiences. A number of complex and intertwined themes emerged from analysis and were loosely categorised around the overarching themes of personal conceptualisations of the environment, environmental meanings in a community context and environmental condition and interactions with place. Analysis revealed participants instilled highly personal meanings within the environment. Places became vehicles for learning and personal growth, they represented family continuity, provided places of spiritual significance and emotional regulation and the recognition of environmental changes encouraged participants to reassess perspectives and values. The development of values within the community was also an important issue identified by participants. The complexity and breadth of community attitudes towards the environment was reflected upon by participants, as was the influence of environmental values within social relationships. An array of complex and interconnected themes encompassing the issue of environmental condition emerged from analysis. Participants described emotive reactions to environmental change, specifically the clearing of native vegetation. First hand experiences of degradation were significant events in people's lives, while conserving the environment fostered feelings of achievement and satisfaction. The findings of this study support the proposition that places act as more than mere backdrops to experience, as participants described complex and intimate relationships with their environments. The constructs of place identity and place attachment did not adequately represent the environmental meanings and values expressed by participants. Environmental interactions were instead conceptualised as 'relationships with the environment'. These findings have important implications for environmental management. Places emerged from the transcripts as 'processes', meaning that through experiential relationships with the environment, places acquired new meanings over time. Meanings infused within an environment influenced interactions within it. Environmental managers need to consider individual conceptualisations of place and the perspective with which people approach their interaction with the land, in order to understand the motivations behind community involvement, or lack of, in environmental conservation initiatives.

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