Date of Award
School of Urban and Regional Planning
This dissertation explores how people frame environmental change. Specifically, this work explores the identity loss that residents of coastal Louisiana experience due to coastal land loss. I rely on 126 in-depth interviews of residents from communities in six coastal parishes (counties). Respondents convey the meanings they give to land loss through constructing a narrative of place. A phenomenological approach is employed that focuses on how stories are told and the subjective interpretations of societal members. First, Louisiana's coastal communities hold a significant attachment to place that in many cases has been developing for close to three centuries. For most residents, place is an inseparable part of identity. Second, Louisiana's coastal land loss is an environmental disaster that causes a heightened awareness of place attachment among residents. Along with a keen awareness of their attachment due to anxiety over land loss, residents believe little is being done to abate that loss. While some erosion and subsidence of the coastal wetlands is natural, much of the loss is caused by human action upon the environment. Communities have watched this mostly slow onset disaster for over fifty years, yet the issue only began receiving significant attention in the last few years of the twentieth century. A third factor contributing to the sense of loss residents experience is their alienation from the bureaucratic and technological processes of coastal restoration. Residents believe that their localized expert knowledge has been dismissed by the institutional expertise of scientific knowledge. Residents say that part of who they are is eroding and they feel helpless and in some respects, prevented from doing anything to alleviate that loss. Exploring the impact of Louisiana's coastal land loss on residents' attachment and identification with place can shed light on the role communities themselves can play in policy and restoration projects. In this regard, the meanings residents' ascribe to places are important for how and what decisions are made concerning those places.
Burley, David, "Land Loss: Attachment, Place and Identity in Coastal Louisiana" (2006). University of New Orleans Theses and Dissertations. 482.