Academic journal article The Canadian Geographer

Explaining Perceptions of a Technological Environmental Hazard Using Comparative Analysis

Academic journal article The Canadian Geographer

Explaining Perceptions of a Technological Environmental Hazard Using Comparative Analysis

Article excerpt

Cette etude adresse un des problemes principaux de recherches dans le secteur du risque de hasard ecologique--selon expliquer pourquoi la perception de la menace du meme hasard change de groupe en groupe. On soutiens que la theorie culturelle de risque, en particulier, les manieres de vivre lieu-dependent et les worldviews qui soutiennent ces manieres de vivre, aide a expliquer des differences de perception de risque dans les communautes de Kinuso, fort Assiniboine, et de Barrhead Alberta. Cinquante-cinq entrevues detaillees ont ete conduites au sein de ces communautes; trois des quatre communautes les plus proches du Alberta Special Waste Treatment Facility. Un modele regional, en forme d'anneau, de souci parmi les convoques est partiellement explique en tant qu'attachement differentiel aux manieres de vivre, selon l'agriculture, le tourisme et la chasse pour les inquiets et; vie rurale agrement proche pour les insouciants. Ces liens sont davantage soutenus par des worldviews selon la mefiance et la sensibilite aux capitaux propres pour les inquiets et le prix du progres pour les insouciants. Bien que cette etude ne soit pas exactement au sujet du processus d'emplacement, les conversations detaillees au sujet du processus d'emplacement indiquent que les perceptions du risque (en tant que souci) dans la periode operationnelle de ce hasard ont ete solidifides des l'abord, et sont probablement difficiles a changer.


Managing technological environmental hazards is a growing problem, and there is increasing pressure to deal with the disposal of hazardous waste. Undoubtedly, hazardous waste facilities are a problem for all stakeholders involved, including policy makers, industry, host communities and their neighbours. Although the process of finding sites for such facilities is a crucial forum for expressing and researching hazard concern (Rabe 1992; Groothuis and Miller 1997), there are few public forums for expressing and researching community views once the facility is operational. Further, there are not clear, universal explanations for why such facilities invoke great concern in some groups and little concern in others. Indeed, existing research has shown that the level of concern immediately next to a facility can vary widely depending on whether, for example, the facility already exists or is merely proposed (Elliott et al. 1993, 1997) or provides recognisable local benefits (Dunlap et al. 1993). These phenomena are at least partially influenced by the perception of hazard risk.

While reactions from the most proximate host communities have received considerable attention in the risk perception literature (Elliott et al. 1993; Whittaker 1998), much less has been studied about the views in more distant communities. Further, much of this literature centres attention on the nature of the hazard itself as a major determinant of concern and opposition; yet there are also contextual place-based influences on hazard concern which have received far less attention. This paper addresses how the perception of risk from a technological environmental hazard (The Alberta Special Waste Treatment Facility [ASWTF] Swan Hills, Alberta) is influenced by local context within three communities close to the facility.

This research is comparative, qualitative and inductive. It draws mainly upon work in the area of hazards research, particularly the cultural theory of risk, from within and outside geography, to explain how risk perception as hazard concern, or lack thereof, develops and is maintained within the context of daily life. The qualitative, inductive, comparative case study design allowed us to explore the meaning of the hazard and the contexts in which it is situated, to explain why lay evaluations of risk vary between individuals and, particularly, between groups.

Theoretical context

The literature on environmental hazard risk perception is informed by a variety of research disciplines within the social sciences. …

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