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Sustainability Whats it really mean for rural decision-makers

Submitted by on 15 October, 2018 – 4:32 am
Scenes from rural areas of the Pacific Northwest, where Kansas State University geographer Lisa Harrington interviewed civic and business leaders about what sustainability means to them. Credit: Photos by Lisa Harrington, Department of Kansas State University geography.

From the titles of books for real estate developments, it is easier to find things it claims to be sustainable, it is defined.

That’s why a geographer at the Kansas State University is trying to define exactly what sustainability means to those who might be trying to work for him. Its aim is to better understand what is important for people who have to make decisions about what they have with the hope that this evening will help business and civic leaders of rural communities to make more informed decisions about sustainability.

Lisa K Harrington is a professor of geography of the state, whose interest is in rural geography. She is teaching a class K of State in sustainability science and said one of the major issues in the teaching of this course is to develop a good sense of what sustainability means and communication to students.

“I want to develop a better idea of how people see the long-term sustainability and develop a better sense of issues and problems that people in rural areas are having related to the ideas of sustainability,” said Harrington. “Sustainability is widely applied sometimes meaningless. In general, people try to use properly. He’s just a term that is broad enough that can be misused.”

For their research, civic leaders interviewed Harrington and rural resource users in Washington and Oregon to get an idea of what sustainability means to them and how they feel about it. Harrington found that some rural leaders have an understanding of sustainability that fits how scholars and practitioners define it – as something that can last into the future. But other rural leaders interviewed do not like how they use the term or do not understand.

“Some of the people we interviewed planners, so they want a very clear definition that can apply to their work,” Harrington said. “I wanted to get an idea of what kind of problems the rural leaders and decision makers and focuses on some of the changes and tensions that are experiencing related to sustainability.”

In rural northwestern Pacific, Harrington said, the main industries are fishing, forestry and tourism. All these industries require a balance of keeping the local economy and maintain the environment that makes fishing, forestry and tourism viable in the first place. In addition, Harrington said the tourism industry raises issues of social sustainability, as if workers in the service industry can afford housing in the communities where they work.

“When people are thinking about sustainability, which in reality can not sustain all – environmentally, socially or economically – at the same time,” he said. “The options have to be done.”

Harrington presented the research in July at the annual symposium of the Commission 17 of the International Geographical Union Commission on Sustainability of rural systems.

Harrington plans to continue this research in other parts of the country, including Kansas. It is expected that the specific issues will be different – for example, maintenance of family farms instead of ocean ecology. But Harrington hopes some of the fundamental problems is the same, including the availability of adequate housing and jobs paying enough to sustain families.

Source: Kansas State University (web)

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