A Conceptual Model for Environmental Sustainability: A Case Study of Two Small Counties in the Texas Eagle Ford Shale Region
Environmental sustainability is an extension of the concept of sustainability that focuses on the importance of understanding the interconnectivity between natural and socio-economic systems without compromising resource capacity. In this study, it is incorporated into a framework that applies to the sustainable development of small counties in the South Texas region of the Eagle Ford Shale.
The research involved a qualitative approach through the distribution of a questionnaire to a surveyed sample of Texas residents from Gonzales and Karnes counties. The purpose of the questionnaire was to obtain the expressed perspectives of residents regarding the impacts of shale development on their quality of life. These locations of interest were selected because of the different levels of shale development they experienced. Aspects of quality of life were analyzed as indicators of the survey responses to open and closed-ended questions. Participants described and scaled variables regarding impacts, benefits, and notable changes they experienced from the development of shale resources in their counties. Content analysis was used to obtain results relevant to developing the conceptual model for environmental sustainability proposed in this study. Findings showed that the sample of participating residents highly identified with socio-economic interests compared to environmental interests, considering that when the study was conducted shale oil and gas production was in decline as a result of fallen global energy prices.
In this study the terms sustainability and sustainable development were used interchangeably, while development was addressed in a broad sense, referring to the overall improvement of quality of life.