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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The structure of the environmental relationship in polar regions Steel, Gary Daniel


Two studies were conducted to examine the environmental relationship of the polar sojourner (a temporary dweller of the Arctic or Antarctic). Noting similarities between the concept of place attachment in environmental psychology and theories regarding close, interpersonal relationships in social psychology, these studies take as their starting point Stemberg’s (1 988a) triangular theory of love. This theory holds that the structure of love is characterized by three orthogonal dimensions: Passion, Intimacy, and Commitment. Stemberg’s model was translated into person-environment terms and expanded to include love’s opposite. The process of the environmental relationship was examined using two groups of polar sojourners: Novices (less than six months experience) and Old-Hands (greater than six months experience). In Study 1, independent raters used definitions derived from Stemberg’s model to rate the strength of each dimension exhibited in the interviews of twenty-five Antarctic and eight Arctic sojourners. Study 2 collected self-ratings from thirty Arctic sojourners. In both studies, rater feedback indicated that the interpersonal model is a viable approach but correlational analysis of the three dimensions indicated that environmental love is actually a monolithic construct. The results from Study 1 suggested that Novices held a greater love of the polar regions than did Old-Hands; the results of Study 2 suggested the opposite. These disparate findings were reconciled in an examination of the differences in environmental love between Base Camp and Field Camp personnel in Study 2, where it was found that Old-Hands whose most recent experience was in a field camp held the greatest amount of love for the polar region. This suggested that wilderness experience may be a goal of polar sojourners. This goal is most likely to be met in Novices because they are experiencing the polar region for the first time, and by Old-Hands in the field because they know that what they are experiencing is truly polar wilderness. Old-Hands in a base camp setting (the primary type of site for Study 1) may be frustrated in their wish to explore the natural polar environment. Future directions include the examination of less extreme environments and incorporating social elements into the model.

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