Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Communication

First Advisor

Marwan M. Kraidy

Abstract

The effects of human impacts on the environment are often not comprehensible to people and have to be given meaning through communication. Such impacts, most prominently climate change, have increased to the extent that human actions are the dominant force in planetary biophysical systems. Yet these impacts are for the most part unintentional and not subject to democratic control. A critical discourse analysis of campaign material and media content examines how three advocacy groups – 350, a climate activist organization, The Breakthrough Institute, a think-tank, and The Nature Conservancy, an established conservation organization – discursively construct climate change. The three groups acknowledge the need to more consciously or deliberatively manage environmental impacts, and yet all have very different assumptions, objectives and tactics in their advocacy. Analysis of the communication activities of the organizations and how their ideas are represented and contested in other media shows not only how they construct the particular issue of climate change but their relationship to societal power relationships. How the organizations build their case for action involves discursive acts which define or re-define the boundaries between nature and society and what (and who) is to be included or excluded from political concern. Unless directly challenged, these new formations will reproduce existing power structures and inequalities.

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