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Date of Award

2016

Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Forest Science (PhD)

Administrative Home Department

School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science

Advisor 1

Kathleen E. Halvorsen

Committee Member 1

Mark D. Rouleau

Committee Member 2

Alex S. Mayer

Committee Member 3

Thomas G. Pypker

Abstract

Just as human behaviors are the main drivers of most environmental problems, changes in human behaviors can contribute to solutions to environmental problems. In this dissertation issues related to climate change and water resources, two of the greatest environmental challenges of our time, were examined in the Great Lakes region of North America. For both issues, perceptions of impacts and support for potential solutions were described and quantified.

Perceptions of climate change and support for mitigation and adaptation strategies were examined at the community level in the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC) of northern Michigan. Like many Native American communities, the KBIC is facing potential environmental, economic, and cultural impacts from climate change and its leaders recently passed a formal resolution to address it. Several key themes emerged through 30 semi-structured interviews and 189 respondents of a quantitative mail survey. Tribal members are acutely aware of climate change and its potential wide-ranging impacts, indicating particular concern for culturally-sacred resources such as the region’s water. Most agree that Ojibwa values and traditional ecological knowledge need to be emphasized in planning strategies, and support was equally high for potential mitigation and adaptation measures. Findings provide critical insight to KBIC leaders as they develop long-term strategies in support of the recently-passed climate change resolution. The research also adds to the broader literature by introducing indigenous Great Lakes perspectives to discussions of climate change and environmental justice issues facing indigenous cultures worldwide.

Issues related to the sustainability of Great Lakes water resources were examined throughout the region following the same qualitative/quantitative research methodology, with the objective of gaining insight on residents’ motivations to conserve household water. This work was also designed with the objective of informing policy, as the Great Lakes Compact, signed into law in 2008, requires Great Lakes states to develop and implement water conservation strategies and report on outcomes every five years. Most previous research related to household water conservation occurred in water-stressed contexts, with little known about residents’ conservation intentions in the Great Lakes region. Using the Theory of Planned Behavior as a theoretical base, findings from 43 semi-structured interviews and 186 survey respondents revealed that while residents deeply value the region’s water resources, few practice household conservation or plan to do so in the future and few perceive others in the region as conserving water. Beliefs about water-related problems focus more on water quality than supply. Attitudes and perceived norms were the most significant predictors of household water conservation intentions, with few reliable trends involving demographic variables. Findings add to the literature and provide valuable insight to water district managers tasked with meeting conservation objectives.

Both studies in this dissertation effectively incorporated qualitative and quantitative methodology to help fill knowledge gaps in the scientific literature and provide critical information to those involved in the development and implementation of policy measures, which relies on accurate readings of public sentiment to be effective.

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