And the ocean came up on land : perceptions of adaptive capacity of cattle ranching in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana
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Cattle ranching in Vermilion Parish is a social-techno-ecological system (STES) that is currently vulnerable due to changing social, technological and ecological conditions. In addressing ways to increase the adaptive capacity of cattle ranching in Vermilion Parish, I used a multiple, mixed method approach grounded in a critical constructivist framework. Constructivism is the idea that our relationship to facts is constructed by our social context. It is these perceptions that shape people’s actions. By looking at these perceptions through an emancipatory frame I was able to understand multiple interpretations of meaning, consciously address them, consider how they may have shaped our actions, and then alter those meanings and power relationships. In an effort to increase the adaptive capacity of cattle ranching in Vermilion Parish, my research focused on actions, why people perform those actions, and how to change them. This research connected the physical landscape of the marshes, the individual landscape of perception, and the conceptual landscape of resilience. If resilience is the ability of a system (cattle ranching in vermilion parish) to recover after a disturbance, adaptive capacity is when the actors within the system can influence that system’s resilience. I explored the history of cattle ranching in Vermilion Parish from three different, but overlapping perspectives – environmental, social, and technological. These perspectives compliment the information from interviews and 3CM sessions. These 15 interviews revealed the perception of 11 types of threats facing cattle ranching in Vermilion Parish. The body of literature surrounding resilience theory identifies traits of highly adaptive systems. The recommendations and suggestions outlined in Chapter 6 exist at the intersection of the actors’ perception of specific threats and the decidedly generalized traits of highly adaptive systems. These suggestions were geared towards increasing the adaptive capacity of cattle ranching in Vermilion Parish. Given these layered landscapes and their complexity, my recommendations were subject to feedback loops and long periods of integration. These recommendations contribute to the theoretical foundation detailed in Chapter 3 by identifying specific ways that the actors of this particular system may be able increase their own adaptive capacity.