Human perception of the natural environment

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  • While many benefits can result from development of the Athabasca Oil Sands deposits, the associated technological and industrial growth has altered both the physical and social environment in the region. Research in the Human System of Alberta Oil Sands Environmental Research Program is designed to assess implications of this endeavour for local communities and to anticipate long-term changes in the region, in order to provide information relevant to planning of future oil sands development. One of the objectives of Human System research is to better understand the relationship between people and their natural and manmade environment, a dimension of which is the relationship between perceptions of biophysical environment and human behaviour. The significance of understanding environmental perceptions rests in their potential to influence human attitudes toward environment and ultimately human behaviour. For instance, different perceptions of environmental characteristics, such as town layout, bush, wildlife, open spaces, etc., may have a bearing on the manner in whiGh people will utilize available resources. This, in turn, may affect the degree to which they will impact their environment, and could be of importance to policy areas as management of resource use by the people, and the planning and design of new urban centres or recreational areas in the oil sands region. Consequently, the purpose of the present study was to review the current state of knowledge on the effects that perceptions of biophysical environment may have on human behaviour. From that perspective, the study was also to define the conceptual and empirical issues involved in the relationship between people and their changing biophysical environment in the Athabasca Oil Sands region. This endeavour was to facilitate the development of possible future field research projects related to resource management and planning.

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