Environmental Studies Program


Date of this Version

Spring 5-2019


Sense of place is an extensively researched concept that refers to the relationship (cultural, economic, societal, spiritual, and physical) between a person and their surroundings. Often a person’s sense of place, or connection to the land, can lead them to develop strong place attachment, or a human-place bond, with certain physical locations. Studies done on place attachment show that people with strong connections to natural areas where they live are more willing to demonstrate environmentally responsible behavior. This kind of behavior is important in the upcoming years, as communities begin to expand, develop more land, and use more resources. In some areas, it is the physical landscape that sets tangible limits to a society, but in wide open spaces, like the desert in Israel or the plains of Nebraska, it seems there is unlimited space to develop. How will we develop communities in a way that does not close off these open areas and disrupt people’s sense of place? What places are significant to people and how do they use them? How do residents envision these places being used in the future? Residents of a small desert community in Israel and a small agricultural town in Nebraska were interviewed on what natural spaces they use and how they would feel if those spaces were to be developed. Differences between the communities were found in the way they perceived the land. The desert dwellers saw the desert as a massive extension to their home. The concept of land ownership did not exist since all land in Israel belongs to the government. Residents of the farming community, however, view land in terms of economic property and delineated open farmland from designated recreational areas. Growth of a community in Nebraska means that a farmer has to give up land to the housing developer. Despite these differences, both communities express concern for the future of the balance between maintaining open spaces and progressing as a community. Further research could be done on the impact of tourism on sense of place, as it emerged as a possible route for both communities.