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    When places change: Impacts of undesirable environmental change on coastal community’s well-being and adaptive capacity

    Phillips, Christopher (2022) When places change: Impacts of undesirable environmental change on coastal community’s well-being and adaptive capacity. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    Solastalgia describes distress, grief, powerlessness and inability to achieve solace in one’s home following disruptive environmental change or place loss. With climate change likely to increase sea level rise and intensify winter storms, coastal communities are particularly vulnerable to impacts of disruptive environmental change. Moreover, transformative adaptation responses to climate change impacts are likely to be increasingly implemented as adaptation becomes more urgent. Therefore, understanding solastalgia will be critical for adaptation planning and building adaptive capacity of coastal communities. This thesis aims to address knowledge gaps related to lived experiences of solastalgia and disruption of place attachment as a result of chronic and undesirable environmental change and loss of place. Specifically this thesis examines i) the extent of solastalgia and place disruption experienced by the communities of Courtown harbour and Riverchapel and how these experiences influence future perceptions of place; ii) how solastalgia, place attachment and place disruption influence community and individual ability to cope with environmental change and loss of place; iii) how lived experiences of place have been altered by negative environmental change and loss of place; iv) how communities of Courtown and Riverchapel are reimagining place, and; iv) how attitudes towards governance and decision-making processes relate to solastalgia and place attachment. Employing a mixed methodology of quantitative and qualitative approaches this thesis finds that a large proportion of residents in Courtown and Riverchapel Co, Wexford experience solastalgia and place disruption as a result of undesirable place change, showing that slow and chronic environmental change can cause solastalgia within an Irish context. Solastalgia is strongly and positively correlated to place attachment and pessimistic outlooks for the future, it also relates to negative perceptions of place and place disruption. In some cases, undesirable place change has undermined place attachment giving rise to a desire to relocate. However, in many cases, despite experiences of solastalgia people maintain hope for the future. Place is being reimagined by local residents by shifting place attachment to unchanged locations, increasing community cohesiveness, and engaging in climate change programmes. Despite such positive action, solastalgia is related to negative attitudes and perceptions of governance leading to lack of trust and higher resistance to policies and local developments. Weak consultation and inclusion in decision-making as well as a perceived indifference of governance towards undesirable place change has reduced trust and amplified feelings associated with solastalgia. However, despite experiences of solastalgia and lack of trust in governance, residents believe there are opportunities for re-imaging the future if their voice is meaningfully incorporated in decision-making. Findings of this thesis provide valuable insights for climate related adaptation strategies concerning the influence that loss of place, solastalgia and governance has on community adaptive capacity. Firstly, solastalgia is experienced by a coastal community in the southeast of Ireland reflecting the lived experiences of millions world-wide who are struggling to cope with coastal erosion. Disruptive place change as a result of climate change and transformative adaptation responses are likely to intensify solastalgia. Therefore, adaptation planning must consider the emotional and psychological impacts of perceived undesirable place change. Secondly, adaptation actions and local authority policy that fail to consider place-based values and meanings can cause disruption, intensifying feelings of loss. Therefore, adaptation planning must consider factors that compound feelings of loss for communities. Finally, collective action, increased consultation and inclusion in local decision-making can help residents come to terms with solastalgia and reduce resistance to adaptation actions. Therefore, decision-makers need to create opportunities that include local voices and co-produce knowledge and local decisions. This research explores the anatomy of place change, highlighting many compounding and interconnecting factors leading to feelings of place loss, thereby increasing understanding of the lived experiences of solastalgia from chronic and disruptive environmental change. These insights will be critical for helping decision- makers and coastal communities navigate climate change. If these issues are not addressed, it is very likely that solastalgia will become a more dominant aspect of lived experiences of place for millions world-wide as climate change and adaptation actions intensify disruptive environmental change.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: undesirable environmental change; coastal community’s well-being; adaptive capacity;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Social Sciences > Geography
    Faculty of Social Sciences > Research Institutes > Irish Climate Analysis and Research Units, ICARUS
    Item ID: 16581
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 29 Sep 2022 10:45
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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