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Pathways to urban environmental stewardship: Sense of place and civic engagement for urban waterfronts
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-6300-0572
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Participation of local residents is considered beneficial for urban environmental stewardship, but the understanding of how urban stewards relate to the places they work with is poorly developed. This study of civic groups working to steward urban waterfronts challenges the notion that stronger attachment drives deeper commitment to stewardship. The study looks at three types of groups doing stewardship work on waterfronts and water bodies in New York City: community groups, environmental groups and recreational groups. Using interviews and Likert scale surveys (n=31), we assessed stewardship activities, place attachment and place meanings that members associate with site that each group works with. Our findings show that community group members are more attached to the sites they work with than members of environmental or recreational groups, but environmental groups report the greatest effort put into stewardship work. Further, we show that place meanings reveal different categories of groups based on how they currently view the site (as a place of work, a place of home, or a place of use), and what they want to achieve for it in their stewardship work: some groups work to restore what the place was previously, others work to protect what it currently is, while a few work to create a new identity for their place. These findings demonstrate how pathways to stewardship differ and are not dependent on strong place attachment; however, they can generate fundamentally different outcomes depending on what place meanings stewardship seeks to protect.

Keyword [en]
civil society, human-nature relations, New York City, place attachment, place meanings, urban social-ecological systems
National Category
Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Natural Resources Management
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-146189OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-146189DiVA: diva2:1136134
Funder
Mistra - The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research
Available from: 2017-08-25 Created: 2017-08-25 Last updated: 2017-08-30Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Stewardship in an urban world: Civic engagement and human–nature relations in the Anthropocene
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Stewardship in an urban world: Civic engagement and human–nature relations in the Anthropocene
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Never before have humans wielded a greater ability to alter and disrupt planetary processes. Our impact is becoming so noticeable that a new geological epoch has been proposed – the Anthropocene – in which Earth systems might no longer maintain the stable and predictable conditions of the past 12 millennia. This is particularly evident in the rapid expansion of urban areas, where a majority of humans now live and where environmental changes such as rising temperatures and habitat loss are happening faster than elsewhere.  In light of this, questions have been raised about what a more responsible relationship between humans and the rest of the planet might look like. Scholars in sustainability science employ the concept of ‘stewardship’ in searching for an answer; however, with multiple different applications and definitions, there is a need to better understand what stewardship is or what novelty it might add to sustainability research. This thesis investigates stewardship empirically through two case studies of civic engagement for protecting nature in cities – Bengaluru, India and New York City, USA. Further, the thesis also proposes a conceptual framework for how to understand stewardship as a relation between humans and the rest of nature, based on three dimensions: care, knowledge and agency. This investigation into stewardship in the urban context uses a social–ecological systems approach to guide the use of mixed theory and methods from social and natural sciences. The thesis is organized in five papers. Paper I reviews defining challenges in managing urban social–ecological systems and proposes that these can more effectively be addressed by collaborative networks where public, civic, other actors contribute unique skills and abilities. Paper II and Paper III study water resource governance in Bengaluru, a city that has become dependent on external sources while its own water bodies become degraded and depleted.Paper II analyzes how locally based ‘lake groups’ are able to affect change through co-management arrangements, reversing decades of centralization and neglect of lakes’ role in Bengaluru’s water supply.Paper III uses social–ecological network analysis to analyze how patterns in lake groups’ engagements and collaborations show better fit with ecological connectivity of lakes.Paper IV employs sense of place methods to explore how personal bonds to a site shapes motivation and goals in waterfront stewardship in New York City. Finally,Paper V reviews literature on stewardship and proposes a conceptual framework to understand and relate different uses and underlying epistemological approaches in the field. In summary, this thesis presents an empirically grounded contribution to how stewardship can be understood as a human–nature relation emergent from a deep sense ofcare and responsibility, knowledge and learning about how to understand social–ecological dynamics, and theagency and skills needed to influence these dynamics in a way that benefits a greater community of humans as others. Here, the care dimension is particularly important as an underappreciated aspect of social–ecological relations, and asset for addressing spatial and temporal misalignment between management institutions and ecosystem. This thesis shows that care for nature does not erode just because green spaces are degraded by human activities – which may be crucial for promoting stewardship in the Anthropocene.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, 2017
Keyword
agency, Bengaluru, boundary object, care, civil society, community, environmental ethics, knowledge, natural resource management, New York City, problem of fit, rigidity trap, sense of place, social–ecological system, urbanization, water governance
National Category
Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences Oceanography, Hydrology and Water Resources Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-146193 (URN)978-91-7649-933-7 (ISBN)978-91-7649-934-4 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-10-13, Vivi Täckholmssalen (Q-salen), NPQ-huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Mistra - The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental ResearchSida - Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, AKT-2010-046
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Manuscript. Paper 4: Manuscript. Paper 5: Manuscript.

Available from: 2017-09-20 Created: 2017-08-30 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved

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