Human ecology and concepts of sustainable development in a crofting township

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Concepts of sustainability vary with time, geographical locality, and the prevailing attitudes of individuals within society. Looking at the example of one crofting community, within a framework of human ecology, this paper attempts to trace a wider appreciation of sustainable resource utilisation in the context of its relationships to land use and to rural development. The aims of this study are twofold, to explore the concepts of ownership, tenancy, and use of the land in a crofting township, and to relate these to perceptions of development and sustainability in a rural community over time. The village of Galson, on the Isle of Lewis, was selected for study due to its unique history of habitation and the detailed information available over a long historical period. Human ecology is about the relationships between people and their environment and this study examines how that relationship has changed over time in one Iocaliry.f Information for this study was gained in three main ways. First, attitudes towards land ownership and land use of the villagers was sought through semi-structured interviews and informal discussions with individuals over an extended period. These discussions were normally in social or croft-work contexts, and focussed on two main aspects: recollections of the family involvement with the Galson area, and perceptions of current land-use activities, particularly in respect to the public discussions of the potential opportunities available when or if the whole of Galson Estate can be purchased in a community buy-out. This was matched against statistical and map-based information on the land use of the area from previously unpublished sources, including student surveys and the archives of the local Ness Historical Society. Thirdly, the current land use patterns were scrutinised by fieldwork and compared against known historical land use patterns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-57
Number of pages19
JournalFolk Life (Journal of Ethnological Studies)
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jul 2013


  • Human ecology
  • Sustainability
  • Crofting


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