College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences Theses and Dissertations

Graduation Date


Document Type


Department/Program Conferring Degree

Interdisciplinary Studies


natural resource management, land stewardship, cultural ecology, sustainable livelihood, western civilization


The purpose of this research is to describe the historical context and systemic structure of the Western agrarian estate model to locate opportunities for strategic solutions to environmental degradation in a way that balances cultivated and conserved natural resources. In part 1, landholders are identified as a point of leverage in the agrarian system. Part 2 goes over the historical development of the Western estate and state traditions, which support landholders by having instituted land administration and information systems to enfranchise their activity. The systemic theory that underlies the Western model is outlined in part 3, describing how social and ecological arrangements are within a biophysical context. Part 4 discusses how information about interactive social and biophysical contexts can be applied to support environmental management as a cultural activity. Such an understanding focuses attention to natural resources and community as a singular system. To illustrate, part 5 is a case study that profiles a unique company, Iroquois Valley Farmland Real Estate Investment Trust, whose activities and way of thinking are reflective of the need suggested by the research: their activities enfranchise land managers in a way that balances the needs of natural resource ecosystems, specifically soil, and the needs of the communities who rely on the productivity of those resources, specifically agricultural produce. As a whole, the thesis engages in a pragmatic inquiry to describe the fundamental and reciprocal interconnectedness of human society, culture, and the natural environment in an effort to show the foundational importance of considering these as a complete system, an understanding which can guide refinement and evolution of economic and livelihood managerial practices in an effective, respectful, and generative way.