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 I analyzed primary historical documents related to his involvement in the project for evidence of terror management indicators, using a combination of Content Analysis (CA) and Critical Discourse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.
The Relation Between Corporate Water Risk, Water Accounting and Financial Performance of Metal Mining Firms Raj, Arun (University of Waterloo, 2016-01-18)Water is increasingly being recognized as a scarce resource. Water intensive industries such as mining are progressively realizing the need and importance to judiciously and efficiently manage their water requirements. ...
Proposing A Water Ethic: A Comparative Analysis of <em>Water for Life: Alberta's Strategy for Sustainability</em> Beveridge, Meghan (University of Waterloo, 2006)Because water is basic to life, an ethical dimension persists in every decision related to water. By explicitly revealing the ethical ideas underlying water-related decisions, human society's relationship with water, and ...
Anderson, Sarah (University of Waterloo, 2016-01-06)What water priorities are embedded in the personal water narratives of immigrants in Waterloo Region? How can immigrant water meanings transform local waters? The purpose of this qualitative research was to understand ...