Making space for environmental problem solving: a study of the role of "place" in boundary choices using Georgia's statewide planning process as a case
Hirsch, Paul Devin
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In this dissertation, the concept of "problem bounding," argued by Bryan Norton and colleagues to be an important but understudied aspect of environmental problem solving, is operationalized and empirically investigated. The empirical part of the work involves participant observation and survey research on how diverse individuals – all of whom were invited by a state agency to advise the development of an institutional framework for statewide water planning – engaged in problem bounding both conceptually and in their choice of a spatial structure for ongoing water management. My particular focus is on the multiple ways in which the "place" an individual views the problem from shapes the way they engage in problem bounding. Although more research is needed and there are significant limitations to the data, my findings indicate that place – particularly in terms of location on an upstream/downstream continuum and rural/urban self-identification – does play a role in problem bounding. The dissertation concludes with a review and discussion of the major findings, and implications for the development of institutional frameworks that are both responsive to ecological dynamics and representative of the relevant public(s).