Knowing and Perceiving the Environment

Assignment 2: Unit 2, Modules 4 and 5: Knowing and Perceiving the Environment (100 marks; 10%)

Assignment 2 spans Unit 2 (modules 4 and 5). It is due at the end of Unit 2 (in Module 5), although you are advised to begin working on it in Module 4.

Make sure that you have reviewed the Introduction to assignments before starting Assignment 2, as it covers expectations. Failure to meet expectations will lead to a loss of marks.

Question 1:

Question 1 relates to the section on how people perceive, which is covered in Unit 2, Module 5.

Read the article “Forest as hazard, forest as victim: Community perspectives and disaster mitigation in the aftermath of Kelowna’s 2003 wildfires” (Goemans & Ballamingie, 2012) and answer the following questions: (20 marks total)

  1. The authors identify three different perceptions towards ecologically sustainable forestry and community safety. In a paragraph each, identify and describe each. Why do the perceptions vary? (5 marks)
  2. The authors describe an evolution of geographic thought around human perception of natural hazards that accounts for our changing ideas about society’s vulnerability. Briefly outline the key points in this discussion. Which approach in Module 5 evaluates human adjustment to the natural environment? (5 marks)
  3. If your job was to plan urban-rural-natural land use in Kelowna and the surrounding areas, how do you think your understanding of these different perceptions would help you in developing different approaches with which to educate people on fire risk and management? Identify and briefly discuss three ways that you could educate people (keeping in mind their different perceptions) on what they can do to protect their property and community from wildfire. Your answer should be approximately 500 words (two double-spaced pages). (10 marks)

Question 2:

One of the themes around perception is that perception varies with knowledge and is closely related to the cultural and social considerations of the individual who holds a particular mental “picture”. Mental maps of geographic areas are heavily influenced by one’s perception.

Six ways that mental maps can be important and impact society include:

  1. Mental images change in a shrinking world, and we become increasingly aware of this when something happens in one place that affects us all.
  2. Mental images around mobility or population movement
  3. Perceptions of a few can impact many.
  4. People in power can have distorted mental maps/images.
  5. Mental maps change.
  6. Mental maps explore what we think of unknown areas and what we don’t know.

In an essay of approximately 750 words (~3 pages double-spaced), discuss which one of the six, in your opinion, has the greatest influence on land use decision making. (20 marks)

Question 3:

For this question, you will need the help of at least ten people. You will only need each person’s help for about five minutes, so you should be able to persuade friends or people you know to help you. If you cannot come up with ten people, get as many as you can. They are going to help you explore the realm of environmental preferences that we discussed in the unit.

Follow the step-by-step procedure, and answer the questions as you come to them: (60 marks)

Step 1:

Prepare a list of locations (see below) on paper or a digital file. Select at least ten people who will participate in this exercise. You may approach them one at a time or in groups. (Steps 2 through 4 are worth 20 marks collectively; step 5 is worth 40 marks)

Step 2:

Provide each of the ten people with a list of the following regions in British Columbia, and ask them to rank these regions in terms of their preferability as places in which to live.

Make sure that each person assigns the number 12 to the least desirable region and 1 to the most desirable place to live.

The regions are:

  1. Greater Victoria
  2. The rest of Vancouver Island
  3. Greater Vancouver
  4. The Fraser Valley
  5. The Okanagan Valley
  6. The Kootenays
  7. Kamloops/Thompson
  8. The Sunshine Coast/Sechelt Peninsula
  9. The Central Interior
  10. The Peace River District
  11. The Northwest
  12. The North

Do not allow the respondents to work together or to listen in on or see each other’s responses. If they ask you what are the boundaries of the various regions, tell them to guess (this in itself might be an interesting indication of your respondents’ mental maps of the regions and their characteristics).

This will result in ten lists, each with the 12 locations and numbers indicating preferences from 1 to 12. You will provide the raw numbers for this exercise as part of the table you hand in (see Step 4, below). (5 marks)

Step 3:

Next, ask the respondents to indicate if he or she knows each of the regions well, a little, or not at all. Each time a participant indicates that they know a place “well”, assign a score of 3 for that location. Each time a participant indicates they know a place “a little”, assign a score of 2 for that location. And finally, assign a score of 1 for each location that is not known at all. You will provide the raw numbers as part of the table that you hand in (see Step 4, below). (5 marks)

Step 4:

Calculate, and present in two tables, the data from above.

The first table presents the results from participants about their most to least desirable places to live (Step 2): (5 marks)

  • Write the names of participants across one axis and the location names across another. In each corresponding square or cell, put in the raw numbers (1–12) assigned by each participant.
  • Aggregate (total) the answers for the 12 locations by adding a “Total” column to your table. Place the total for each location in that column. To do this, add the sum of the preferences for each region and rank the regions from the lowest to the highest preference score. The region with the smallest aggregate score is the most desirable as a place to live.
  • Change the order of the above 12 locations in your table so that the most desirable place appears first in your table and the least desirable place appears last. These placings are based on the aggregate totals that you calculated.

 

The second table presents the results from Step 3, when you asked the respondents to indicate how well they know each place: (5 marks)

  • Write the names of the participants across one axis and the location names across another. In each corresponding square or cell, put in the number that indicates how well they know a location (1 for “not at all”, 2 for “a little”, or 3 for “well”).
  • Add a “Total” column and for each of the 12 locations, total up the scores that match whether participants felt they know a place well, a little, or not at all.
  • Present your totals in a column and order the locations from best known (top) to least known (bottom). (Note: Your table may have “ties”. This is okay. Just group all the well-known, little-known, and unknown locations together.
  • In this table, the locations with the highest scores are the ones that are known the best.

Step 5:

Write answers for each of the following questions:

  1. What areas are ranked by the entire group as being the four most preferable regions in which to live? (Identify these areas clearly.).

What might be the reasons for these preferences? Include ideas based on your opinion and building on the concepts from pages 36–37 in your textbook. Reviewing the concept region on pages 36–37 of your textbook will provide some theoretical background. In particular, consider the differences between regionalization, regionalism, and vernacular regions, and the roles that these views may play in helping you understand the patterns for preferences that you are seeing in your data.

For the third part of Part A, consider the map below titled “The View from California”. The map shows patterns of residential desirability using zones indicated by numbers. So, on this map, the zone with a value of 80 is the most desirable, and places to the left of the 80 line indicates this zone. For example, levels of residential desirability are high on the west coast, extending from California to Washington State. (If you are not sure where California and Washington State are located, use a search engine to consult a map of the United States.) Moving eastwards from the west coast, desirability sinks to a low in Utah (where the zone is 40), but then rises to a plateau in Colorado (where the zone is 60). From here eastwards, there is a gradual decline to the low point of the Dakotas, but at this point the essentially west-east trend changes.

From about the one hundred degree meridian, the trend shifts to a north-south one. Values rise towards the northeast, but decline to the south (with the exception of Florida).

Figure: The View from California

Adapted from: Gould, P., & White, R. (1974). Fig 4.1 – The mental map from California. Mental Maps. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

This mental map of residential desirability raises the question of stereotypes. The uniformly high ranking of the southern parts of New England (notably the south coast, west country, and the Cambridge region of East Anglia) may be based on stereotypes founded in brief holiday stays and tourist literature. Many regional stereotypes in different countries are remarkably persistent, with specific areas long viewed as either very attractive or unpleasant, irrespective of how residents might view them.

Contrasting Canadian images of the west coast (as “Lotus Land”) and the economically depressed Maritimes come to mind (but notice the Californians gave high ratings for the adjacent New England states in the above map of the US). One of the strongest stereotypes has been the image of California as the ideal place to live. Originating in the gold rushes of the last century, maintained later by appreciation of the supposedly therapeutic climate and agricultural potential, sustained by the Hollywood image and liberal lifestyles tolerant of social peculiarities, this image has been remarkably resilient.

Such images and mental maps are not simply of academic interest. Migration patterns in the United States, for instance, equate very closely with images of residential desirability. The Pacific states have long been an area of net in-migration, whereas the Great Plains regions, which are the low points in the above map, have suffered from out-migration.

Although the figure is at a different scale than the province of BC (the regions you surveyed), do you see any patterns or similarities in the concepts between “The View from California” (as presented above and from your own knowledge) and your analyzed data? Are there zones or areas in BC that are more desirable to live than others? Is this reflected in the data you collected? Do you think all people who live in BC would share this view? You are expected to discuss the ideas of differences in climate, land use (agriculture, residential, etc.), and economic development (related to migration), as described above. (Total for Part A: 20 marks)

Reference: Gould, P. R. (1966). “Some Implications of Mental Maps.” Position Paper #9.

  1. Does the pattern of preferences shown by your respondents surprise you? If so, how? Why did the pattern surprise you? If not, why not? Would you have expressed the same preferences? (10 marks)
  2. Is there any relationship between the respondents’ preferences for regions and their familiarity with those regions? Use a graphic or tabular way to show if there is such a relationship. (10 marks)