Whose Puget Sound?: Examining place attachment, residency, and stewardship in the Puget Sound region

A 2020 article in the journal Geographical Review examines the current status of place attachment among Puget Sound residents in connection with environmental stewardship behaviors. The authors challenge often touted negative perceptions of the region’s newcomers and conclude that residents, new and old, share a strong positive place attachment and sense of pro-environmental stewardship.

A kayaker on Puget Sound. Photo courtesy of Washington State Department of Ecology.
A kayaker on Puget Sound. Photo courtesy of Washington State Department of Ecology.

Extended abstract

Washington’s Puget Sound region has experienced remarkable growth over the last decade; however, this growth may have serious impacts, including the hastening of Puget Sound’s ecosystem decline. Such costs have also led to scapegoating, stereotyping, and finger-pointing toward the region’s newcomers. But, are the region’s newcomers wholly detached, blasé, and uninterested in the region’s place-based concerns? Does the region’s growing non-native-born population care about the region’s natural environment or engage in pro-environmental behaviors?  Building upon ongoing efforts to monitor the health and recovery of Washington’s Puget Sound, the authors examine the relationships among residents’ place attachment, residency, and environmental stewardship. Place attachment is considered a bond or connection between people and place, notably, but not exclusively, the natural environment. A strong or positive place attachment creates a sense of rootedness, belonging, or an intense feeling of being at home.  It also reflects and includes cognitive (e.g., beliefs, memory, or knowledge), emotional (e.g., feelings), and practice (e.g., actions) components of the human experience. As such, place attachment is understood to be informed by people-place relationships, including where someone lives, how long they have lived there, and what their experiences with place have been like. Place attachment is recognized as integral to addressing place-based challenges, such as environmental degradation. This recognition is increasingly observed within ecosystem recovery efforts that seek to understand, harness, or build place attachment in order to achieve specific environmental goals. In combination with place identity and place meaning, place attachment can contribute to one’s engagement in environmental stewardship behaviors. Thus, how someone feels about or connections to a place informs how they respond to environmental changes or challenges. Based on data from over 2,000 responses to a general population survey (Human Wellbeing Survey), the authors highlight the current status of place attachment among Puget Sound residents and the extent to which residency matters to their stated attachment to place and environmental stewardship behaviors. This examination challenges often touted negative perceptions of the region’s newcomers and concludes that residents, new and old, share a strong positive place attachment and sense of pro-environmental stewardship.

Citation

David J. Trimbach, Whitney Fleming & Kelly Biedenweg. (2020). Whose Puget Sound?: Examining place attachment, residency, and stewardship in the Puget Sound region. Geographical Review. DOI: 10.1080/00167428.2020.1798763.

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About the Author: 
David Trimbach is an interdisciplinary social scientist with a background in human geography and urban studies. He is currently conducting postdoctoral work at Oregon State University.