Friday, August 26, 2011

Three out of five?

So how does sense of place inform our lives? As I’ve shown in previous posts, there is evidence that sense of place can lead people to advocate for conserving the special features of their place – the features that give them that affinity for their place. But can sense of place make us happier? More likely to treat each other better? How about richer? Prettier?

I don’t know the psychology literature at all, but I imagine that one could find references that show that if one feels that he or she has made a good choice in place to live, as with any other of life’s big decisions, one is likely to be happier. I do see it around here in those that stop to think of all the advantages this place confers. And I imagine one could find evidence to support the hypothesis that happier people are more likely to treat each other nicer.

But what about richer? Very desirable places to live sometimes have lower wages. When we lived out in Colorado’s Front Range, there was a saying ‘the mountains cost you $7,000 a year.’ Apparently someone had done a comparison of average wages in the Front Range to similar jobs elsewhere and found that difference. The thinking was that the companies could get away with paying people less since they did not have to entice their employees to move to some undesirable location (similar to how really fun jobs like natural resources conservation don’t have to pay a lot to attract people to do them). So will a strong sense of place make you richer? Hmmm. Guess not. This wonderful place I live now isn’t known for its high wages. Guess we get our riches in the non-monetary form.

How about prettier? Not so sure about that either. I was just talking to a colleague the other day about how the people in some of those towns below the bridge are always so fashionable and dolled up. That’s not quite the case here. We have a style, a way of presenting ourselves, but we are not fashionable under the definition of “fashionable” as keeping up with changes in styles. (Thanks to local fashion expert Maria Guzzo and her IgniteSault talk on fashion for that understanding of fashion

In our discussion, that colleague and I agreed that it’s nice to live in a place in which one doesn’t need to worry about fashion. I’ll take better stewardship, and happier people who treat each other well and not worry about being richer and prettier.


  1. Hey Dr. Zimmerman! I really enjoy your blog so far. We have a similar saying in Traverse City about low wages and higher cost of living in a desirable place to live - "You pay to live by the Bay." Going into the field of conservation I need to remind myself there are multiple kinds of "rich" and "pretty"; there is monetary wealth, and there is leading a rich and fulfilling life. As far as pretty goes, I certainly prefer expansive forests and open waters to fashionable shops and clothing styles.