Saturday, September 1, 2012

Yes, I've been in hiding, but for good reason...

Yes, I have been hiding out for some time now. For the past year I have been writing exclusively on the dissertation. And guess what, it is nearly complete! After all this time, I finally have something of substantial quality and relevance to the issues facing the future sustainability of our food systems.

Over the course of the process I have had my share of hiccups and redirects, but with focus and perseverance, I have put together a series of solid research articles. These articles represent the basis of the dissertation; each article is unique, but related, and each one addresses issues related to sustainable consumption, sustainability discourse, and equity in our agri-food systems.

One article in particular looks at people's 'affective connection' with nature as defined in Mayer et al. (2004), and their Connectedness to Nature Scale (CNS). Following Aldo Leopold's concept of the 'Land Ethic,' the CNS aims to measure the degree to which people feel a sense of connectedness to nature as part of their broader community. Leopold suggested that this connection was essential to changing human relationships with the land, away from a form of destructive dominance over nature, and towards one of respectful cooperation with nature. 
Using a much abbreviated version of the CNS - 4 items versus 14 items - I looked at the association between peoples sense of nature connectedness and behavior vis-a-vie, ethical consumption. The study looked specifically at sustainable food provisioning in the form of attitudes and behaviors around local food purchasing. Even with the smaller sized scale, the 4 items retained from Mayer et al. original CNS proved to be an important indicator of both interest in ethical consumption and actual behavior through local food provisioning. 
This is very exciting as it further verifies the CNS, while also giving additional evidence to the importance of Leopold's 'Land Ethic' perspective. Of course, more research is needed, and it would be particularly necessary to employ the entire scale in a study of actual behavior. However, the little bit of evidence that this study provides is important. It also has sparked additional thinking about what influences a person's connection to nature. Perhaps the answer is being worked on the University of Virginia, through an exploration of a concept called, The Nature Pyramid. It is argued that humans require a range of interactions with their natural environment. The Pyramid defines various forms of interactions in terms of scale. 
I wonder which forms will prove to have the most impact, if any, on cultivating a person's connection to nature... I wonder if, and how the structure and character of human-built environments will influence this connectedness. Perhaps Christopher Alexander's concept of 'degrees of life' in a place will prove useful in future inquiry.

Anyway, all ideas for future work. In the meantime, I will post some of the research, probably around the end of September. And now that this project is finally coming to an end, I will have more time to start using this blog as a means to "think out loud" again. Plus, I will have time to get this little webcrawler software project ready for public use!


Laura LooHoo said...

sweet blog post. I'm also nearly done with my thesis, and on a fast train to submit the full thing to the committee by end of September. ...and working full time in an engaging job. Our topics overlap; mine is an applied anthropology/sociology look at the epistemology of local food and how it leads to engagement in food citizenship.

Justin G. Smith said...

Thanks Laura for the comment! Sorry it has taken so long for me to respond. Your thesis sounds exciting. Where are you studying, Colorado State?