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'Place' and sustainability: Research opportunities and dilemmas

Moore, S.A. (1997) 'Place' and sustainability: Research opportunities and dilemmas. In: Conference of the Australian Association for Social Research, Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga pp. 217-229.

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Place, as the centre of peoples’ experiences and lives, has become a focus in natural resource management in the 1990s. Efforts have and are being made to consider place in forest, national park and farm management, and in managing resource uses such as hunting. Place is the intersection of people’s physical, biological, social and economic worlds. Sustainability relies on all four worlds and most importantly integrating across them. As such place provides a window to understanding sustainability especially given its expression at the intersection of these worlds.

Place is, however, difficult to define and measure. Substantial, past, research effort has focused on quantitative measures of aesthetic appeal as a surrogate for place. In more recent years interest in the meanings associated with place has led to qualitative research. This paper overviews the current range of research approaches and includes the dilemmas and opportunities associated with each. Also included is a brief description of our recent research using photo elicitation, an approach relying on photos and associated narratives, to investigate farmer’s sense of place in relation to their farmlands in the Western Australian wheatbelt.

Choice of research approach should be guided by requirements for the findings including: (1) accuracy in reflecting the respondent’s association with place; (2) ability to capture the complexity of place and sustainability; (3) applicability of findings beyond the site-level and ability to generalise; and (4) ease of communicating research findings, especially to managers. Qualitative research methods seem best for examining the complexities of place and sustainability, especially the genius loci of place. However, quantitative results are most easily communicated to managers, the people with primary responsibility for sustainable land management practices.

Item Type: Conference Paper
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Environmental Science
Publisher: Centre for Rural Social Research, Charles Sturt University
Copyright: (c) S.A. Moore
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