Redefining community based on place attachment in a connected world.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
National Academy of Sciences
The concept of community is often used in environmental policy to foster environmental stewardship and public participation, crucial prerequisites of effective management. However, prevailing conceptualizations of community based on residential location or resource use are limited with respect to their utility as surrogates for communities of shared environment-related interests, and because of the localist perspective they entail. Thus, addressing contemporary sustainability challenges, which tend to involve transnational social and environmental interactions, urgently requires additional approaches to conceptualizing community that are compatible with current globalization. We propose a framing for redefining community based on place attachment (i.e., the bonds people form with places) in the context of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, a World Heritage Area threatened by drivers requiring management and political action at scales beyond the local. Using data on place attachment from 5,403 respondents residing locally, nationally, and internationally, we identified four communities that each shared a type of attachment to the reef and that spanned conventional location and use communities. We suggest that as human-environment interactions change with increasing mobility (both corporeal and that mediated by communication and information technology), new types of people-place relations that transcend geographic and social boundaries and do not require ongoing direct experience to form are emerging. We propose that adopting a place attachment framing to community provides a means to capture the neglected nonmaterial bonds people form with the environment, and could be leveraged to foster transnational environmental stewardship, critical to advancing global sustainability in our increasingly connected world.
We thank colleagues from the GBRMPA, University of Exeter, and CSIRO for input during the Interdisciplinary Science of Environmental Change workshop; and J. Cinner, J. Álvarez Romero, and our reviewers for helpful comments that improved the manuscript. This study was supported by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Research Program, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority; University of Exeter; and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Agency.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from National Academy of Sciences via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 114, no. 38, pp. 10077–10082
Place of publication