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Towards sustainability on Bowen Island : a case study Savelson, Aviva

Abstract

The future of human health and that of all other species depends on the viability and sustainability of a host of environments and ecosystems. Human behaviour(s) have profound effects (both positive and negative) on such ecosystems. Despite the obviousness of these statements, there remains a lack of clarity around the mechanisms for altering specific behaviours related to sustainability and their impact on the physical environment. This research grapples with the issue of why it is necessary to identify relations between human behaviour and achieving sustainability. It studied a dialogue process as a means to enable people to move from learning about what sustainability might be to taking action toward making the Georgia Basin region more sustainable. The dialogue process that was studied used QUEST, a user-friendly, interactive, computer software program designed to engage the public in creating future scenarios up to the year 2040 and the Precede-Proceed Planning Framework, a planning model adopted from the field of Health Promotion. In combining these two tools, the goal was to first initiate a dialogue on what sustainability might look like in a regional context, with the use of QUEST and then consider the preliminary planning steps needed to actualize some of those ideas using the Precede-Proceed planning model. This two-step approach was applied in a workshop setting with some members of the Bowen Island community and the research revolved around describing and reflecting on the application of the process and its outcomes in the community. The purpose of this dialogue framework was to provide citizens of Bowen Island with a well-structured, theoretically sound means of generating positive discourse and decision making around issues of sustainability on Bowen Island. The application of the dialogue process had some promising outcomes. QUEST facilitated learning about some of the complex interactions between socio-economic and environmental aspects of how the Georgia Basin region functions. Learning about the consequences and tradeoffs of potential futures was a central theme in the research. This kind of learning helped to reinforce and expand people's thinking about sustainability. However, for a local island community, it was difficult to translate these regional ideas about desired futures into practical terms. Using the Precede-Proceed framework enabled participants to identify and prioritize potential strategies and articulate constructive objectives. The framework helped to create coherence in understanding what strategies should be focused on. With this clarity, some of the workshop participants were inspired to work together to implement their ideas. Although the results of this study indicate that using this kind of dialogue process had its benefits it mostly reinforced the need for more practical examples of policy and program planning process in this vain. Engaging citizens in these conversations makes it possible to incorporate their perspectives into wider public planning.

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