A systems thinking approach for eliciting mental models in ethnography of socionatural conflict research: smallholder farming in the Biobío River Basin, Chile

Volume 6, Issue 1, February 2022     |     PP. 45-63      |     PDF (279 K)    |     Pub. Date: February 10, 2022
DOI: 10.54647/sociology84605    101 Downloads     3422 Views  


Riveraine S. Walters, Water Resources Program, University of Idaho, United States
Gerardo Azócar García, Land Planning and Urban Systems Unit, Center for Environmental Sciences EULA-Chile, Universidad de Concepción, Chile
José Luis Arumí, Departamento de Recursos Hídricos, Facultad de Ingeniería Agrícola, Universidad de Concepción; Centro de Recursos Hídricos para la Agricultura y Minería (CRHIAM), Universidad de Concepción, Chile
Laura Putsche, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, University of Idaho, United States
Paul Lewin, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, University of Idaho, United States
Allyson Beall King, School of the Environment, Washington State University, United States
Javiera Aguayo Fuentealba, Facultad de Ciences Ambientales - Universidad de Concepción, Chile
Jae H. Ryu, Department of Soil and Water Systems, University of Idaho, United States

As we explore the complexity of socionatures, we universally find that values, traditions, needs, narratives, perceptions, norms, priorities, and policies are always evolving and often in conflict. Thus, it is critical to investigate the mental models of individuals and communities in order to deepen understandings of behavior and decision-making. However, mental cognition is non-linear, complex, and systemic, and we argue that the suite of systems thinking tools for eliciting mental models can be expanded for qualitative research. We demonstrate the advantages of this approach through the lens of socionatural conflict for Chilean smallholder farming, including how it further enriches narrative storytelling through improved contextualization and pluralization. Smallholder agriculture is a major contributor to the export-based economy of Chile. However, the combination of broad socioeconomic and environmental change has put such strain on smallholder farmers in the south-central region, that they are being forced into selling off land parcels for residential homes. Given the specific historical, political, and cultural context of Chile and the Biobío Region, typical adaptation approaches that may be suggested in academic or professional literature are not necessarily viable for Chilean smallholder farmers. Thus, deeper and more holistic understandings of the multi-layered socionatural conflict are herein developed.

Chile; mental models; population dynamics; smallholder farming; socionatures; systems thinking

Cite this paper
Riveraine S. Walters, Gerardo Azócar García, José Luis Arumí, Laura Putsche, Paul Lewin, Allyson Beall King, Javiera Aguayo Fuentealba, Jae H. Ryu, A systems thinking approach for eliciting mental models in ethnography of socionatural conflict research: smallholder farming in the Biobío River Basin, Chile , SCIREA Journal of Sociology. Volume 6, Issue 1, February 2022 | PP. 45-63. 10.54647/sociology84605


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