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Surrounded by Chemical Valley and 'living in a bubble': the case of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, Ontario

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This study examines the perceptions and coping strategies of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, which is surrounded by 'Chemical Valley', the largest complex of petrochemical plants in Canada. Analysis of in-depth interviews showed that residents perceive 'Mother Earth to be sick'; however, a strong level of community cohesion prevails, with 'place' as a significant anchor to the culture and history of the community. Residents articulated a collective sense of responsibility for the well-being of members both within and surrounding the community, whereby some residents would never leave, regardless of the toxic environment and concern for high rates of cancer and respiratory diseases among both adults and children. Residents employed action-focused coping strategies such as 'indoor evacuation' and the 'Cop-sniff test', and emotional coping strategies including blocking out the effects of 'Chemical Valley' by frequently ignoring warning sirens from industry. The results call on the need for a collaborative environmental planning intervention involving clear community participation. Findings suggest the need for an indoor recreational facility for both children and adults, and a graded warning system.
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Keywords: Aamjiwnaang First Nation; Chemical Valley; Mother Earth; coping; environmental contamination; environmental stress

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada 2: Aamjiwnaang Environment Committee, Aamjiwnaang, Ontario, Canada

Publication date: April 1, 2010

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