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

Ripples in the BWCAW: An analysis of the Boundary Waters-PolyMet Inc. dispute through the three-tiered lens of the Narrative Policy Framework.

Maureen Wieland's picture
Wieland, Maureen
Category of presentation: 
Scholarly papers

To begin, the literature surrounding the use of narratives in the climate science field is discussed. Once a general understanding of the previous literature has been established, the next section dives into the Narrative Policy Framework (Jones & McBeth, 2010) and the components that make up this understudied yet increasingly useful framework in the context of climate change and environmental policy disputes. Next, the case of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is explained and analyzed on three levels (macro, meso, and micro) paying special attention to the narrative features of setting, characters, morals, and narrative strategies used over time. In this case, locals, indigenous populations, and environmentalists alike fight for the protection of this wild space while mining company PolyMet Inc. works to contract the rights to encroach on these once pristine waters. This paper concludes with projections of the BWCAW case outcome as well as suggestions for future narrative policy debates and scholarship. The author argues that the anti-mining coalition’s usage of the devil-shift, their continued projection of their argument as the losing side, and their highly diverse and un-unified narrative range leaves them at a disadvantage and with a lot of work to overcome the PolyMet Inc. mining company and all other mining initiatives to follow. This case is ongoing, having just been updated this September 2018 with the current administration clearing the way for increased mineral leasing and mining, which ensures it is a relevant and critical case to explore further through the lens of the Narrative Policy Framework. While this policy dispute is still unresolved to this day, it is the author’s hope that future environmentalists can learn from this analysis and can understand the potential power of the narratives they shape and use in protecting the great waterways of our planet.