Waterlines: Confluence and Hope through Environmental Communication. The 15th biennial Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE). June 17-21, 2019, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

“Human-Dominated Age” Messaging in a Time of Ecological Change

Patrice Kohl's picture
Kohl, Patrice
Category of presentation: 
Scholarly papers

In some conservation circles, a struggle has emerged to control conservation narratives about contemporary environmental issues. Conflicting narratives diverge on questions about, for example, whether wild nature still exists, and whether humans have pushed ecosystems beyond irreversible thresholds of change. Efforts to defend or promote one or another of these narratives in popular media, are grounded in untested assumptions about how they might influence public support in favor of, or in opposition to, more radical versus established conservation. This study tests how support for wildlife and ecosystem management practices are influenced by conflicting narratives about whether wild nature exists and whether humans have pushed ecosystems beyond irreversible thresholds of change. A total of 622 participants were recruited to participate in an experiment testing how different messages about the persistence of “wild nature” and “irreversible” environmental change influence support for a wide range of traditional and radical conservation practices. Massages framing wild nature in dichotomous terms (i.e. wild versus domesticated) as opposed to framing wild nature along a continuum (i.e. degrees of wildness), and messages presenting the claim that human-impacted ecosystems are irreversibly altered, influenced support for a limited range of practices. Significant framing effects on support were almost entirely limited to practices involving methods for removing non-native species. Individuals with low-levels of concern about human impacts on the environment, were most influenced by the message manipulations.