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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An Alternative approach to regional planning : a carrying-capacity framework for achieving a viable region Inoue, Yūichi


The purpose of this thesis is to develop an alternative approach to regional planning based on the concept of carrying capacity. I assume that the relationship between human society and its ecological resource base has substantially changed because of the unprecedented economic expansion subsidized by fossil fuel and consequently we can no longer behave as if the natural environment had unlimited capability to accommodate human economic activity. In this situation, in order to ensure the long-term welfare of regional residents, it is necessary to improve the viability of a region by restructuring its economy in such a way as to promote regional economic self-reliance and ensure sensible natural resource management. Efforts should be made to achieve a self-reliant economy using regional resources on a sustainable basis. The concept of carrying capacity, which is an explicit representation of limits to growth, can provide a valuable framework for these efforts. I propose a conceptual framework of carrying capacity, where four variables are incorporated. They are [1] natural capability, [2] human intervention, [3] material standard of living, and [4] interregional transfer of commodities. The exploration of this alternative approach to regional planning involves four steps. First, I examine the present nature-human relationship paying special attention to the prevailing assumption about the natural environment and the role of fossil fuel in industrial society. Second, I consider what the viability of a regional economy is and how it can be improved under the circumstances clarified in the preceding step. Third, I examine the meaning of carrying capacity criticizing the existing applications, and develop a carrying-capacity framework that can help achieve a viable region. Fourth, I describe how the proposed framework be applied to the efforts to design a mode of production and consumption that is compatible with a viable region.

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