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Title:Examining the social amplification of risk in Great Lakes areas of concern
Author(s):Lower, Erika Katherine
Advisor(s):Cutts, Bethany B
Contributor(s):van Riper, Carena J; Greenlee, Andrew; Nigrelli, Caitie
Department / Program:Natural Res & Env Sci
Discipline:Natural Res & Env Sciences
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Great Lakes, social amplification of risk framework, risk perception, sediment remediation, Areas of Concern, AOCs, Great Lakes Legacy Act, public understanding of science
Abstract:Waterways around the Great Lakes are undergoing sediment remediation work to remove legacy industrial pollutants in International Joint Commission-designated Areas of Concern. While pollution remediation provides clear benefits to human and environmental health, the social impacts of the cleanup process in AOC communities is less clearly understood. This project examines how and to what degree the social amplification of risk framework (SARF) can be used to identify differences in the public understandings of the risks posed by contaminated sediment before and after remediation work is completed, as well as between geographic locations, to improve environmental outreach and communication in AOCs. Chapter 1 investigates the viability of the SARF as a tool for secondary analysis of interview data about waterway remediation work. I test the framework against risk perceptions shared in stakeholder interviews conducted before and after sediment cleanup was completed in the Sheboygan River AOC in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Findings indicate that the SARF is an effective analytical lens for examining how risk information about waterway pollutants travels through communities, and successfully identifies differences in those patterns of risk information before and after remediation is complete. Chapter 2 applies the SARF to three different AOC sites that have yet to undergo remediation work: The Upper Trenton Channel in the Detroit River AOC, MI, the U. S. Steel Site in the St. Louis River AOC, MN, and the Zephyr Site in the Muskegon Lake AOC, MI. The risk amplification models produced by each site suggest a degree of congruence in which actors within AOC communities are key sources of risk information, the effect of pollution visibility on public perceptions of risk, and the types of negative impacts stakeholders identify as a result of contamination. However, distinct differences in the models produced by each site suggest generalization may be limited, and that each AOC has unique communications needs informed by local politics, geography, and the nature of the pollutants at each site. By identifying how risk messages pass through different information channels in each of the four communities included in this study, a better understanding of the factors which influence public perceptions of the pollutants and their remediation is produced, generating new insights on best practices for stakeholder outreach. The social amplification of risk framework is demonstrated to be a valuable tool for mapping public perceptions of waterway risk in AOCs, and illuminates both common ground and areas of difference between sites and over time, providing a richer understanding of communications needs for environmental professionals working with AOC communities.
Issue Date:2017-07-19
Rights Information:Copyright 2017 El Lower
Date Available in IDEALS:2018-03-02
Date Deposited:2017-08

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