Communicating for Food Sustainability Abstracts

Awareness of the Need for Transformational Change in Local Food System Participants in Providence, Rhode Island

Anna Palliser

There is a marked increase in local food systems across the USA, where they are increasingly supported by federal, state and local government programs (Martinez et al, 2010). Yet scholars from  food justice and food sovereignty perspectives argue that while such initiatives remain embedded in a market-based approach to development, underpinned by the current neo-liberal economic paradigm, they are unlikely to significantly address food security and food-related racial inequities (Alkon et al, 2012; de Souza, 2018; Edelman, 2014; Prost et al, 2018). As Grey and Patel (2015) argue, a radical transformation away from the industrial and neo-liberal paradigm, such as is advocated by the La Via Campesina movement, may be needed. People working within local food systems may be unaware of the constraints imposed by the global food system on local initiatives and of the need for collective action for transformative change to significantly address food insecurity (Edelman, 2014; Prost et al, 2018).

This paper is based on a four-month Fulbright scholarship research project undertaken in late 2019 in Providence, Rhode Island, in collaboration with Fulbright New Zealand and Johnson and Wales University, Providence, RI. The Providence local food system was studied from the perspective of food sovereignty and security. 21 interviews, comprising 25 individuals working at all levels of the large, diverse and well-developed local food system in Providence were undertaken. Interviewees were asked about the problems and issues of their local food system. This paper examines their responses for comments about the constraints imposed by the dominant food and economic systems and the need for transformational change. Only a minority clearly articulated their perceptions that transformational change was needed, although several voiced concerns about the way the funding model for non-profits, which has an entrepreneurial approach, constrained their work. Many appeared focused on the need to grow the local system, without questioning its market-orientated approach. This suggests the need for wider communication at the grassroots of local food systems about the constraints imposed on local food systems by our dominant systems of food and economy.

Alkon, A.H. & Mares, T. M. (2012). Food sovereignty in US food movements: Radical visions and neoliberal constraints. Agriculture and Human Values, 29(3), 347-359.

De Souza, R. T. (2019). Feeding the other: Whiteness, privilege, and neoliberal stigma in food pantries. MIT Press.

Edelman, M. (2014). The next stage of the food sovereignty debate. Dialogues in Human Geography, 4(2), 182-184.

Grey, S., & Patel, R. (2015). Food sovereignty as decolonization: Some contributions from Indigenous movements to food system and development politics. Agriculture and human values, 32(3), 431-444.

Martinez, S. (2010). Local food systems; concepts, impacts, and issues. Diane Publishing.

Prost, S., Crivellaro, C., Haddon, A., & Comber, R. (2018, April). Food democracy in the making: Designing with local food networks. In Proceedings of the 2018 CHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 1-14).

Human-Like Animals? – The Effects of the Animal Rights Organizations’ Approach to Communicate for Reducing Animal-Based Nutrition

Tanja Habermeyer and Rebecca Hellmeier

One communication type for sustainable nutrition is that of activists online. Animal rights organizations aim to activate awareness for animal well-being, and reduce animal-based nutrition, especially in mass-production, which causes 24% of world-wide emissions (Risku-Norja & Kurppa, 2009).

Thereon, animal rights organizations use communication strategies like extreme rhetoric with fear-inducing messages and depicting animals as human-like (Jasper, 1999). Using fear-inducing messages can be linked to Janis and Feshbach’s (1953) fear appeals strategy: Thus, presenting a threat can trigger fear, and communicating it with resolving (non-)actions can result in behavior change. However, a too high induced fear level could lead to message rejection (reactance; Brehm, 1966). While animal rights activists are often criticized for the radicalness in their communication, their effects on recipients have yet to be analyzed (Munro, 2012).

Furthermore, animal rights organizations use personification (Tam, 2014): Inserting visual (human-body/behavior similarities) or linguistic elements (e.g. ‚corpses‘ for dead animals), organizations present animals as human-like to evoke empathy (e.g. Cherry, 2010; Mika, 2006): They aim to trigger recipients to adopt the perspective of animals and identify themselves with them. Malecki et al. (2019) showed empathic care as relevant for animal protection.

Shelton and Rogers (1981) assume that fear appeals, leading people to protect themselves, can also foster animal protection when combined with triggering empathy. Through personification, animal rights organizations aim to evoke empathy and therefore animal protection. This study analyzes the effects of combining these communication strategies on attitude and behavior.

A 2 (image: fear appeal vs. no fear appeal) x 2 (text: personification vs. no personification) between-subjects online-experiment was conducted with 218 participants (64.7% female) (18-69 years, M=27.34; SD=11.75) who read a modified animal rights online-article.

Two-factorial ANOVAs showed no effects for attitude or behavioral intentions (ps>.05), but a main effect of fear appeals for intention to seek information, F(3,214)=4.48, p=.036, η²=.02. For a second questionnaire after two weeks (115 participants), no effects on attitude stability or conducted behavior were found (ps>.05), but a main effect of no personification for information search, F(3,110)=3.96, p=.049, η²=.03. No mediation effects showed for fear appeals via fear or reactance, nor for personification via empathy or reactance (ps>.05).

The strategy personification commonly used by these organizations showed as not effective – descriptively hardly any differences (table 1) and a significant negative influence (information search). Fear-inducing messages showed as descriptively overall positive for mediating and dependent variables and significant for information search. However, they resulted also in descriptively lower values for behavior and higher values for reactance. Since animal rights organizations are criticized for radicalness, possibly a less strong fear degree (Janis & Feshbach, 1953) could show positive effects beyond information search, and depicting more strongly the efficacy of resolving behaviors could stimulate behavior. As empathy (Malecki et al., 2019) is particularly relevant for animal protection and for fear appeals positive tendencies were found, future research should analyze alternative personification depictions (e.g. visually) or alternative strategies for supplementarily fostering empathy.

Brehm, J. W. (1966). A theory of psychological reactance. Oxford: Academic Press.

Cherry, E. (2010). Shifting symbolic boundaries: Cultural strategies of the animal rights movement. Sociological Forum, 25(3), 450–75.

Janis, I. L., & Feshbach, S. (1953). Effects of fear-arousing communications. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 48(1), 78–92.

Jasper, J. (1999). Recruiting intimates, recruiting strangers: Building the contemporary animal rights movement. Waves of Protest: Social Movements Since the Sixties, 65–82.

Malecki, W., Pawlwski, B., Sorokowski, P., & Oleszkiewicz, A. (2019). Feeling for textual animals: Narrative empathy across species lines, Poetics, 74, 1–8. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2018.11.003

Mika, M. (2006). Framing the issue: Religion, secular ethics and the case of animal rights Mobilization. Social Forces, 85, 915–941.

Munro, L. (2012). The animal rights movement in theory and practice: A review of the sociological literature, Sociology Compass, 6(2), 166–181.

Risku-Norja, H. & Kurppa, S. (2009). Dietary choices and greenhouse gas emissions – Assessment of impact of vegetarian and organic options at national scale. Progress in Industrial Ecology – An International Journal, 6(4), 340–354.

Shelton, M. L., & Rogers, R. W. (1981). Fear-arousing and empathy-arousing appeals to help. The pathos of persuasion. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 11(4), 366–378. doi:10.1111/j.1559-1816.1981.tb00829.x

Tam, K.-P. (2014). Are anthropomorphic persuasive appeals effective? The role of the recipient’s motivations. British Journal of Social Psychology, 54, 187–200.

Positioning Community Radio as a Catalyst for Food Sustainability in Kenya: A Review of Milestones and Challenges of the UNESCO Chair on Community Radio for Agricultural Education – Rongo University

Enock Mac’Ouma, Rongo University

Since the middle of this decade, Community Radio has continued to redefine its role and scope in not only in Kenya, but also in other developing countries such as Madagascar. In Kenya, many community radio stations which broadcast in vernacular languages are providing participatory platforms for discussions and knowledge sharing on food sustainability. Following the award of a UNESCO Chair on Community Radio for Agricultural Education to Rongo University in October, 2019, the University is fast emerging to become a national pace-setter in promoting the adoption of Climate Smart farming technologies and agroecology among rural farmers in Migori, Kenya. The UNESCO Chair project is underpinned by several communication theories. Firstly, the Media Effects Theory, De Fleur and Ball-Rokeach (1988), Jeffres (1997), Katz (2001b), Perse (2001), which refers to the actual force exerted by a media (radio, newspaper, television etc) message on an individual or audience thought, attitudes and/or behavior. Secondly, the Participatory Communication Theory (Bessette, 2004) which shows how radio is essential in providing an effective platform for stakeholder participation in all steps of a development process. Thirdly, the Community Media Theory (Howley, 2013) which shows how community media platforms can be an engine of change. The key objective of the Chair is to design and broadcast suitable participatory radio programmes for extension services targeting smallholder farmers. Through a partnership with the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO, two participatory workshops have already been conducted to co-create adverts and podcasts based on topics related to sustainable farming systems. Some of the topics that workshop participants discussed include: how to manage pre/post-harvest losses, agroecology technologies, stress-tolerant maize and sorghum seed varieties, beekeeping technologies, Climate Smart farming technologies among others. This presentation will share the achievements and challenges of the UNESCO Chair on Community Radio on Agricultural Education.

Overmoralization of (m)eating behavior?

Stella Lemke, Thomas Fenzl, Franzisca Weder, and Denise Voci

Theoretical Background: Communication is fundamental for sustainable development (Robertson, 2019; Weder et al., 2020; Newig et al., 2013; Godemann & Michelsen, 2013). Sustainability itself sits at the core of a societal discourse on meeting climate change related (global) challenges as well as progress and social and cultural transformation. On an organizational level, sustainability is increasingly fundamental to provide legitimacy and the “license to operate”. However, sustainability seems to be a highly complex issue that requires comprehensiveness, transparency, proximity and balance to avoid being (ab)used by mainly corporations to replace what was innovation or future orientation a decade ago.

On an individual level, it gets even harder to deal with sustainability as a “buzz word”, bringing in a certain degree of morality in everyday life choices regarding transportation and mobility, food or retail. Thus, from a theoretical perspective, we are interested in the degree of morality in sustainability communication in general and in social practices in particular. Weder, Tungarat and Lemke (2019a) had developed a new model for coping with cognitive and moral dissonance: Sustainability Dissonance Harmonization (SDH) combines Festinger (1962), Lowell (2012) and Gardiner (2013, p. 307) using different aspects of each model to acclimatize it to the notion of sustainability which is applied to sustainable food choices in the project at hand.

Study: With the empirical study that will be presented at the mini-conference, we seek to better understand sustainability as a moral compass, influencing eating behaviour and mainly meat or plant-based food choices. The methodological background is that narratives represent storied ways of those perceptions, meaning making and communicating, thus, have always been a key feature in media and communication research (Bryman, 2016; Weder et al., 2019b). A convenience sample of international students in Austria (n = 20) from a variety of cultural backgrounds were interviewed in the following dimensions: What are your beliefs and values about food and nutrition? What factors influence an individual's food habits? How did eating behaviours of people change and which factors make people change their eating behaviour. As well, we were interested in the attitudes towards meat consumption and the thoughts with regards to food choices and the environment?

Findings: The two major findings, that we would like to put up for discussion at the mini-conference are that (1) sustainability apparently plays a minor role in food choices; furthermore, even if climate change is perceived as threat, thinking about the horrors of industrial livestock farming, animal rights, pollution and waste, it does not directly influence people to change from a meat- to a plant-based diet; (2) individual food choices and changes from meat consumption to veganism or becoming vegetarian are mainly influenced by being exposed to new ideas within the closer network of family and friends, rather than media or key events. Even more interesting for a discussion at the conference is that mainly accessibility as well as general cooking and eating practices (food is celebration vs. food is necessary for survival) influence meat- or plant-based food choices.

Outlook: Thus, apparently, ethical reasons and sustainability as a moral compass play a smaller role than we assumed and apparently are rather insignificant when people consider their eating behaviour.

The discussion at the mini-conference will be particularly valuable due to the fact that comparative data in a different cultural setting will be gathered later this year; a constructive debate will help refining questions and sample choices.