The Beach Beneath the Road: Sustainable coastal development beyond governance and economics

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


That Florida is in the midst of an ecological crisis is a perspective increasingly shared by academy, government, private industry and civil society. Ideas about the causes of the state’s environmental problems and how best to address them, however, are not so well aligned. While some are prone to emphasize the primacy of economic growth over environmental conservation, others argue that, like love and marriage, you cannot have one without the other. More particularly, Florida’s many densely populated barrier islands are experiencing increasingly severe critical erosion, threatening people, property and endangered species habitat. In the face of expanding urban development, rising seas and coastal squeeze, the traditional strategies for managing erosion are looking less and less appropriate and the need for a sustainable coastal development strategy is more and more apparent.

To this end, this thesis has three main parts. First, I develop a plausible explanation of the origins of Florida’s environmental problems, tracing the relationship between changing systems of production and environmental impacts from pre-Columbian to modern times, developing in more concrete detail the case of Flagler County and the City of Flagler Beach. Second, by employing the method of immanent critique I provide a scientific evaluation of competing critical erosion solution options which have been historically considered in the case study area, demonstrating in particular how these competing alternatives can be organized from least to most adequate in terms of their capacity to address the problem under consideration. From this critique I turn to suggest a yet-unconsidered alternative decision making procedure which can reasonably be shown to be an advancement on the “best” idea currently on offer. Finally, I identify a promising pathway to achieving this alternative, arguing in particular that civil society, in contrast to government or the market, must provide the mechanism for realizing the necessary social change.

The thesis aspires to make three main types of contribution: 1) practical contributions in the form of a variety of policy and strategy inputs in collaboration with local coastal management practitioners; 2) theoretical contributions via the critical comparison of competing solution alternatives related to coastal management in Florida’s coastal communities; and 3) methodological contributions to sustainability studies by demonstrating an approach to scientific research which I argue is more appropriate than other more dominant approaches in terms of its capacity to fulfill the field’s interdisciplinary and normative ambitions.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Other Social Sciences


  • Beach Management, Barrier Island, Flagler, Florida, Sustainability Science, Immanent Critique
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2018 Jan 26
Place of PublicationLund
  • Lund University
Print ISBNs978-91-982201-5-5
Electronic ISBNs978-91-982201-6-2
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2018-01-26 Time: 13:15 Place: Ostrom, Josephson Building, Biskopsgatan 5, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Longo, Stefano (Dr.) Title: Associate Professor Affiliation: North Carolina State University, U.S.A. ---

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Related research output

David O'Byrne, Ellinor Isgren & Chad Stephen Boda, 2018 Feb, In : Biological Conservation. 218, p. 293-294

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