Informing rural municipal sustainability: A case study analysis of rural communities

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Smith, George Robert
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University of Guelph

This thesis investigates communication of information as a basis for facilitating rural community sustainability. Rural communities face complex global and local challenges to their social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Globalization issues directly impact all aspects of rural community sustainability. Increased urbanization and centralization of services also impacts on socio-economic characteristics of community and rural environmental quality (Bryden, 1994). Southern Ontario rural communities confront these challenges in spite of the productive farmlands and an abundant resource base that characterize that Province. Issues complexity is a barrier to community sustainability (UNCED, 1992; Mitchell, 1994). Global access to local resources combined with Provincial economic reforms reshape socio/cultural profiles of communities. Innovative methods are required to facilitate more balanced, sustainable approaches to community change. Information is required as a basis for informed decision-making and improved prospects for a sustainable future (WCED, 1987; Lyle, 1994, Wackemagle and Rees, 1996). This thesis explores these issues in the context of a research program related to sustainable rural communities focused on information and communication between rural community stakeholders and decision-makers. Drawing from current and emerging theory, a model for analysis of rural community sustainability (FARMS) incorporating publicly-derived sustainable indicators, has been tested using case study sites and focus group data gathering techniques, and is proposed as a starting point towards evolving tools for facilitating community sustainability. Conclusions are drawn and recommendations proposed based on the testing of FARMS. Future research needs and directions are identified.

rural communities, rural municipal sustainability, communication of information, increased urbanization, global challenges