Cultural perceptions of space and place in the South Florida *environment

Elena Sabogal, Florida International University


Public opinion polls in the United States reveal that a great majority of Americans are aware and show concern about ecological issues and the need to preserve natural areas. In South Florida, natural resources have been subjected to enormous strain as the pressure to accommodate a growing population has led to rapid development. Suburbs have been built on areas that were once natural wetlands and farmlands, and the impact today shows a landscape where natural places have all but disappeared. This dissertation examines the intersection between the perceptions that individuals living in the South Florida region have with respect to the natural environment and local ecological problems with where their relationship to nature takes place. The research is based upon both quantitative and qualitative data. The principal methodology used in this research is the ethnographic method, which employed the data gathering techniques of in-depth interviewing and participant observation. The objective of the qualitative portion of the study was to determine how people perceive and relate to their immediate environment. The quantitative portion of the study employed telephone survey data from the FIU/Florida Poll 2000. Data collected through this survey provided the basis to statistically test responses to the research questions. The findings show that people in South Florida have a general idea of the relationship between the human population and the environment but very little knowledge of how they individually affect each other. The experience of private places and public spaces in everyday life permits people to compartmentalize cultural values and understandings of the natural world in separate cognitive schemas. The appreciation of the natural world has almost no connection to their personal sense of obligation to preserve the environment. That obligation is only felt in their home space even though the South Florida environment overall struggles desperately with water shortages, land encroachment, and a rapidly expanding human population whose activities continuously aggravate an already delicate natural balance.

Subject Area

Social structure|Cultural anthropology|Environmental science|Geography

Recommended Citation

Sabogal, Elena, "Cultural perceptions of space and place in the South Florida *environment" (2001). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI3032817.