Society be Dammed!: A Terror Management Analysis of Water Infrastructure as a Conduit to Immortality
MetadataShow full item record
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the conventional response to water scarcity was to develop large-scale water infrastructure, which has created wide-ranging social, economic, and ecological implications. I used Terror Management Theory (TMT) to assess whether constructing substantial water infrastructure functions to mitigate mortality salience (MS). In accordance with TMT, participation in culture provides people with a sense of meaning and significance to repress their existential concerns. Since water infrastructure reflects cultural values, I argued that participation in its development provides a way by which individuals can feel like valuable contributors to their worldview, and achieve heroism according to their cultural framework. William Mulholland, the engineer credited with constructing the Los Angeles Aqueduct, served as a case study personality. I analyzed primary historical documents related to his involvement in the project for evidence of terror management indicators, using a combination of Content Analysis (CA) and Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA). Consistent with TMT, evidence indicated that 1) water crisis threats function as a death prime, 2) Mulholland’s water infrastructure involvement enabled him to repress death-related anxieties, and 3) Mulholland was able to symbolically transcend death by supplying water to Los Angeles. This research has both historical and contemporary implications. Viewing water crisis threats as a death prime is significant considering that water crises are a pervasive and increasing threat to society. This research also shows that TMT can provide insight into the motivational underpinnings of historical water-related decisions, and suggests that it can help predict different responses to water-related challenges. In this light, it may also help inform more rational solutions to water management instead of the conventional approaches, which have resulted in largely adverse consequences.
Cite this work
Meghann Kerr (2016). Society be Dammed!: A Terror Management Analysis of Water Infrastructure as a Conduit to Immortality. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/10395
Showing items related by title, author, creator and subject.
Exploring the Implementation Potential of a Proposed Water Ethic: A Canadian Case Study into Underlying Ethical Considerations for Water Resources Management Matthews, Cushla (University of Waterloo, 2013-01-25)Ideas about water use and ethics have been linked for many thousands of years. In this millennium, water resources remain a primary area of concern throughout the world, including such issues as shortages, supply, flooding, ...
Geochemical Characterization of Groundwaters, Surface Waters and Water-Rock Interaction in an Area of Continuous Permafrost Adjacent to the Greenland Ice Sheet, Kangerlussuaq, Southwest Greenland Henkemans, Emily (University of Waterloo, 2016-01-21)Continental scale glaciations, such as those that covered much of Canada and Northern Europe during the last glacial maximum (26,000 to 19,000 y BP), can be expected to cause large disturbances to both the surficial and ...
The Role of Ericaceous Shrubs in the Surface Water Balance and Soil Water Availability of Cutover Peatland, Québec Farrick, Kegan Ka'leb (University of Waterloo, 2008-09-12)Peatlands are carbon sinks and occupy approximately 13% of Canada’s terrestrial surface of which 0.02% have been harvested for horticultural peat. The extraction of peat from natural peatlands alters the hydrology which ...