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A Case for Coastal Theory with Lessons from Planning Theory

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Coastal management has been emerging as a distinct profession drawing from numerous fields within the natural and social sciences. We argue for an expanded discourse and a body of coastal theory that both examines coastal management as a distinct professional endeavor and, in turn, guides best practices. Urban and regional planning and coastal management are in many respects overlapping professions, each of which is itself informed by multiple disciplines and each dealing with coupled natural and human systems. This article presents ideas existing within planning theory, which has a robust history, and explores the applicability of major themes in the discourse to the growing field of coastal management. We explore five clusters of ideas within planning theory including: the nature of problems and solutions, landscape meaning, the ecological landscape planning framework, the epistemologies of knowledge communities, and communicative planning. Following a review and discussion of key concepts and literature relating to these themes, we discuss lessons from the history and development of planning theory for developing coastal theory. Particular lessons are the open-ended nature of future coastal theory, the significance of the role of the professional manager, and the critical linkage between theory and practice.

Keywords: coastal management; coastal theory; communicative planning; landscape planning; planning theory

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Planning Program—Department of Geography,East Carolina University, Greenville,North Carolina, USA 2: Institute for Coastal Science & Policy, East Carolina University, Greenville,North Carolina, USA

Publication date: 2012-07-01

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