Sustainability on the Australian rangelands: learning, roles in life and sense of place

Lankester, Allyson (2013) Sustainability on the Australian rangelands: learning, roles in life and sense of place. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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With the uncertainty surrounding the capacity of natural resources to maintain ecosystem services into the future, achieving sustainability is a high priority for land managers and policy makers. This thesis asserts that developing a 'more sustainable' approach to natural resource management requires the adoption of social and ecologically enhancing practices through shifts in the way people learn, see themselves and the world around them. Despite the attention that learning and socialpsychological dimensions have been given, there is still limited understanding of farmers' learning and self-identity processes that involve changes in perspectives and practices for sustainability. There is even less understanding of these aspects and processes in the context of achieving sustainability within rangelands. The main aim of this thesis is to increase understanding of aspects and processes of learning and self identity, as self-identity relates to roles and place, in the context of achieving sustainability within rangelands and extensive grazing systems. The thesis focuses on a case study of beef producers who operate extensive cattle grazing operations in the northeastern rangelands of Queensland, Australia, where multiple and complex social-ecological problems have arisen due to the erosion of ecosystem services. I use the case study to explore learning, self-perceived roles in life and sense of place in this setting and to identify (1) learning processes and outcomes that foster changes in perspectives and practices that enhance sustainability, and (2) the influence of self-perceived roles in life and sense of place on achieving sustainability. Interpretative mixed methods are used to provide in-depth and broadscale understanding of the social-psychological dimensions of the thesis: a qualitative study (28 face-to-face interviews) with one set of producers followed by a quantitative study (91 telephone surveys) with a different set of producers. Qualitative data are used to develop variables for the quantitative survey and to provide interpretative understanding of the quantitative findings. Content and statistical analyses of data from the qualitative and quantitative phases of the study, respectively, provide conclusions for the thesis as a whole. Social-cultural perspectives from different disciplines frame the analysis of beef producers' narratives and discussion of the findings. The results of the case study show that aspects that can foster sustainability are organised and sustained collective learning, adversity, active experimentation, alternative discourses and an emotional connection to the land and family property. On the other hand, attachment to the lifestyle and occupation of cattle grazing, including 'outside' labouring roles, do not appear to be strong indicators of sustainability. Some aspects of the beef industry and culture may not always need changing for sustainability. For example, 'learning by doing' and, in some cases, producers' emotional connection to the family property appear to help foster sustainability. However, other aspects such as low engagement in collective learning and alternative discourses, and attachment to the occupation and lifestyle of cattle grazing may require critical reflection and change. The entrepreneual discourse associated with personal and cultural change in the northeastern rangelands may also require critical reflection on the extent of ecological sustainable behaviour fostered by this change. I, therefore, conclude that continual, collective and experimental learning that encourages critical reflection of habits of practice and builds the social and cultural capital of alternative discourses is important for achieving sustainability. This thesis contributes novel interdisciplinary contributions to the fields of geography, environmental psychology, adult learning and sustainability and new insights for concepts of 'place identity', 'place attachment', and 'learning for sustainability', 'adoption of innovations', 'transformative learning', 'farmer identity' and 'gender roles'. Implications of the results of this thesis for policy include realising that a learning-based approach is required and that because producers' sense of self and place is multifaceted there is likely to be a diversity of responses to planned interventions. Further research is required to understand what the 'change' or 'transformation' in learning and self-identity processes that foster sustainability constitutes. Research could include further identifying cognitive, emotional and relational changes that lead to shifts in learning, practice, self-identity and culture that fosters sustainability, and understanding the role of adversity in the learning and change process.

Item ID: 29041
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: sustainability; sustainable practices; attitudes; perceived roles; experiential learning; social-cultural perspectives; rangelands, northern Queensland; beef cattle industry; response to adversity; change managment
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Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Lankester, Ally (2012) Self-perceived roles in life and achieving sustainability on family farms in north-eastern Australia. Australian Geographer, 43 (3). pp. 233-251.

Lankester, A. (2012) Understanding producers' change to more sustainable grazing practices in the tropical savanna rangelands of North Queensland. Final Report, Meat and Livestock Australia, Sydney.

Lankester, A.J. (2013) Conceptual and operational understanding of learning for sustainability in the beef grazing rangelands of northeastern Australia. Journal of Environmental Management, 119 pp. 182-193.

Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2013 02:19
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050209 Natural Resource Management @ 33%
07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management > 070108 Sustainable Agricultural Development @ 33%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1604 Human Geography > 160403 Social and Cultural Geography @ 34%
SEO Codes: 83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8303 Livestock Raising > 830301 Beef Cattle @ 33%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 33%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9609 Land and Water Management > 960904 Farmland, Arable Cropland and Permanent Cropland Land Management @ 34%
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