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

Rivers Run Through It: An Actor-Network Theory Approach to the Textual Analysis of a Forest Plan

Evelyn Meisenbacher's picture
Dsouza, Evelyn
Ross, Donald
Category of presentation: 
Scholarly papers

This essay posits an actor-network theory (ANT) approach to the interpretation of an environmental text
in land and resource management planning. As scientific thought and practice come to embrace
complexity over linearity as the guiding paradigm, so too are human-nature relationships reconstituted
and renegotiated accordingly in environmental science writing. Through an ANT-inspired lens, which
celebrates rather than suppresses or ignores the power of nonhuman actors, we analyze a 2013 United
States Department of Agriculture (USDA) text: The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for
the Revised Land Management Plan (MP) of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests (IPNF). Our
reading pays special attention to the text’s portrayal of stream ecology and its relationship to forest
ecosystem functioning for illustrative purposes. In doing so, we continue building groundwork for inter-
and transdisciplinary environmental thought in twenty-first century environmental science. We argue for
the importance of actor-network theory in environmental studies because it amplifies the agency of
nonhuman actors, a realization with resonant meaning for human thought and action in natural
resource decision making. Equally, while ANT has been met with popularity in writing studies, we seek
to add an environmental focus on primarily nonhuman activity.