Social constructions of environmental quality and opportunities for enterprise in rural Scotland

McKain, Ruth A. E. (2003). Social constructions of environmental quality and opportunities for enterprise in rural Scotland. PhD thesis The Open University.



Environmental values are inherently subjective, yet in the past objective approaches to valuing the environment have dominated. Many scientific approaches to evaluating the quality of the environment have been developed, but they fail to capture the diversity and richness of wider public perceptions of the 'natural' environment, and as such they cannot claim to fully represent the values of 'ordinary people'. The development of 'social indicators'. of environmental quality offers an alternative to the scientific approach. It appears that environmental value hinges on 'use value': the ability of the environment to satisfy the particular use that the individual makes of it This approach allows a far richer understanding of concepts of 'value' in environments. Yet while we increasingly 'value' rural places and environments, rural communities are finding themselves under increasing pressure to remain viable: in modern parlance they are often described as being 'unsustainable'. Efforts to improve this situation have focused on the stimulation of rural enterprise. This study aims to investigate the actions and motivations of 'environmental entrepreneurs' in rural areas. A model of environmental enterprise is developed and explored. It appears that certain rural businesses are highly reliant on the quality of the environment in which they are located, as perceived by their market. Such businesses incorporate perceptions of 'the rural' and 'the natural' into various aspects of the entrepreneurial process: marketing and advertising, production processes and experiential setting, for example. The model suggests that such businesses are ideally suited to post-modern forms of business, engaged as they are in the production of environmental symbols and concludes that such forms of enterprise are likely to continue to flourish, while remaining susceptible to external influences on public perceptions of rural environmental quality.

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