Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Geography and Geology

First Advisor

Dr. Philip Reeder


Land use from associated exponential human population growth is causing dynamic and destructive changes on the Earth's surface. Before land use management can be modified to conserve our remaining global resources, however, a better understanding is needed of how physical and social land use aspects interact. This social science research was conducted to answer the research question of 'what variations in perception exist among three categories of the social construct; Local Workers, Land Owners/Managers, and Tourists in the Cayo District of Belize. Also examined were pertinent background factors and individual characteristics involved in perception and relationship formation such as social status, ethnological makeup, age, level of environmental awareness, personal experiences and individual attitudes towards local political and economic situations. By analyzing data from 47 personal interviews using survey questionnaires, variations of perceptions about the environment produced specific trends. An association was found to exist between perceived environmental conditions and social category. Although Tourists were consistently more aware of perceived environmental problems/pollution than the Land Owner/Managers, and Local Workers, Tourists and Land Owner/Managers had the closest levels of awareness, followed by a much lower level of awareness for the Local Workers. A bond was found between social category and familiar types of land use. People have a tendency to perceive things they can relate to dependant upon their experiences in life. Relationships were also found to exist between categories and economics, level of education, and travel experience. Levels of awareness and perception were found to be affected by background characteristics such as the parallels between high perception levels of environmental problems by Tourists, with natural history types of experiences/attractions they liked best about Belize and/or the Cayo District, and the viewpoint that rain forests should be preserved. For locals, the higher the percentage of Belizean parentage, the lower the perception level of environmental problems. Also, the higher the level of land ownership and duration at job type, the higher the level of perception. In conclusion, individuals and society will not become aware of environmental situations, much less take action to protect them, unless it can be directly related to their experiencess.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Geography and Geology and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha.

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