The symbolic meanings residents associate with their local bodies of water and coastal infrastructure can shape their perceptions of the infrastructure’s effects. In this case, we conduct a survey (N = 168) to examine residents’ perceptions of visibly disruptive, yet environmentally
protective cooling towers attached to a long-standing coal-fired power plant on Mount Hope Bay. Residents’ symbolic meanings of the bay corresponded predominantly with aesthetic,
ecological, or recreational themes, whereas their symbolic meanings of the towers also focused on aesthetics as well as the towers’ function or uselessness. Although residents generally perceived the towers as having negative effects on different aspects of the bay community overall, those who reported ecological meanings of the bay or functional meanings of the towers perceived that the towers offered significantly more positive ecological and health impacts. They were also more likely to differentiate positive ecological and health effects from the towers’ more negative aesthetic and financial impacts. This offers evidence for the important role of symbolic meanings in shaping perceptions of coastal infrastructure and demonstrates how specific understandings of the bay and the infrastructure itself can lead to more nuanced perceptions of the positive and negative effects of such projects.
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DuBois, B. B., Lacasse, K., & Ley, A. J. (2021). What's water got to do with it? Place-related symbolic meanings alter residents' perceived effects of coastal infrastructure. Ecopsychology, 13(2), 123-132. https://doi.org/10.1089/eco.2020.0051