UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Making sense of change : how place-specific cultural models and experiential influencers are shaping understandings of climate change in two BC coastal communities Streilein, Andrea Susan


Global climate change has become the imminent issue of our time. Recent literature has stressed the pressing need for adaptation planning, particularly for communities that are most vulnerable to new climatic variations, such as resource dependent and coastal communities. Yet, such cries for adaptation have often glossed over the need for prior examination into the underlying cultural mindsets of such communities. In response, this thesis has sought to examine the various factors that are influencing local understandings of global climate change by leaders in two British Columbia coastal communities, Port Alberni and the Tseshaht First Nation. Guided by a social (or ecological) constructionist lens and a phenomenological methodological approach, a series of in-depth interviews were conducted with the leadership, both formal and informal, of the two aforementioned B.C. communities during the summer of 2006. Although each community yielded distinct findings, the interviews captured richly nuanced descriptions of local environmental changes, which in turn played a sizeable role in shaping how the leaders conceptualized climate change. A plethora of place-specific historical, experiential and values-based factors interacted and moulded the many contextual culturalmodels (from tsunamis, to recycling, to colonial pasts to reverence for nature), which were imbedded within leaders' discussions of climate change. Following this core analysis, I explored the community capacity to manage and adapt to future changes by examining local strengths and challenges. The concluding chapter provided a reflection of the results and pointed to new directions.

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