Making Invisible Changes Visible: Animal Examples and the Communication of Biodiversity Loss

  • Marit Ruge Bjærke University of Bergen
Keywords: Biodiversity loss, climate change, endangered species, environmental communication, exemplarity, Red List, Cuculus canorus, Lagopus spp

Abstract

Communicating biodiversity loss and other environmental threats is never only about relating natural science data. How different environmental discourses are presented, how they intertwine, and what concepts of nature are implied, are important parts of environmental communication. The release of the 2015 Norwegian Red List for Species by the Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre was commented on by governmental and non-governmental organizations, and was covered quite extensively in Norwegian national and local papers. In this article, I investigate the use of animals as examples in media texts on the Norwegian Red List, and the different conceptions of biodiversity loss that they activate. The examples studied in the article vary from the listing of species’ names to longer narratives connected with a single species. What they have in common, however, is that the authors use them to make the general issue of the texts more real and understandable to the reader or listener. The conceptions of biodiversity, produced through animal examples in the various media, ranged from happiness and childhood magic, to a climate-changed future, and to recreational hunting. The close reading of the examples shows that both the choice of species and, more specifically, which of the species’ many relationships to portray as part of the exemplary narrative, is crucial to the conceptions of biodiversity loss and of nature that are conveyed to the public. Through their way of both exceeding and reducing the general statement they are meant to illustrate, the examples bring some ideas about biodiversity loss to the foreground, but at the same time obscure others, thus providing insight into how biodiversity loss is constructed and communicated as an environmental problem.

References

Adam, Barbara (1998): Timescapes of Modernity: the Environment and Invisible Hazards, London, UK: Routledge.

Anderson, Ben (2010): “Preemption, Precaution, Preparedness: Anticipatory Action and Future Geographies,” Progress in human geography, 34:6, 777–798. https://doi.org/10.1177/0309132510362600

ArtDatabanken (2015): “Anthus pratensis Ängspiplärka,” ArtFakta ArtDatabanken SLU: https://artfakta.artdatabanken.se/taxon/102983 (accessed: 11/3/2019)

Artsdatabanken (2015a): “Cuculus canorus Linnaeus, 1758,” Norsk Rødliste for arter: https://artsdatabanken.no/Rodliste2015/rodliste2015/Norge/4040 (accessed: 15/2/2019)

Artsdatabanken (2015b): “Anthus pratensis (Linnaeus, 1758),” Norsk Rødliste for arter: https://artsdatabanken.no/Rodliste2015/rodliste2015/Norge/4322 (accessed 11/3/2019)

Artsdatabanken (2015c): “Lagopus muta (Montin, 1781),” Norsk Rødliste for arter: https://artsdatabanken.no/Rodliste2015/rodliste2015/Norge/4070 (accessed 25/2/2019)

Artsdatabanken (2015d): “Lagopus lagopus (Linnaeus, 1758),” Norsk Rødliste for arter: https://artsdatabanken.no/Rodliste2015/rodliste2015/Norge/4066 (accessed 25/2/2019)

BirdLife International 2018: “Anthus pratensis,” The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22718556A131986875.en (accessed 11/3/2019). https://doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22718556A131986875.en

Braverman, Irus (2017): “Anticipating Endangerment: The Biopolitics of Threatened Species Lists,” Biosocieties, 12:1, 132–157. https://doi.org/10.1057/s41292-016-0025-0

Båtstrand, Sondre (2014): “Giving Content to New Politics: From Broad Hypothesis to Empirical Analysis Using Norwegian Manifesto Data on Climate Change,” Party Politics, 20:6, 930–939. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354068812462923

Dokka, Morten (2015): “Rødlista og jaktbar [Redlisted and Huntable],” Troms Folkeblad, 23 November 2015.

Doyle, Julie (2011): Mediating Climate Change, Farnham: Ashgate.

Eriksen, Anne, Ellen Krefting & Anne Beate Rønning (eds) (2012): Eksempelets makt: Kjønn, representasjon og autoritet fra antikken til i dag [The Power of Example: Gender, Representation, and Authority from Antiquity to Today], Oslo: Scandinavian Academic Press.

Fisher, James, Noel Simon & Jack Vincent (1969). The Red Book: Wildlife in danger. London: Collins.

Føli, Are (2015): “Klimaendringene truer flere norske arter [Climate Changes Threaten more Norwegian Species],” Norsk telegrambyrå (NTB), 18 November 2015.

Gelley, Alexander (ed.) (1995): Unruly Examples: On the Rhetoric of Exemplarity, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Hallingdølen (2015): “Nær truede ryper [Near Threatened Ptarmigans],” Hallingdølen, 28 November 2015.

Haug, Isabell (2015): “Rødlista 2015: Rypa er utrydningstruet [2015 Red List: the Ptarmigan is Threatened by Extinction],” Framtid i Nord, 19 November 2015.

Heise, Ursula (2008): Sense of Place and Sense of Planet: the Environmental Imagination of the Global, Oxford: Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195335637.001.0001

Heise, Ursula (2016): Imagining Extinctions: the Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226358338.001.0001

Hulme, Mike (2011): “Reducing the Future to Climate. A Story of Climate Determinism and Reductionism,” Osiris, 26:1, 245–266.

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) (2019): The IUCN Red List of threatened species: http://www.iucnredlist.org/ (accessed 12/11/2019).

International Union for the Protection of Nature (1954): Les Fossiles de Demain: Treize Mammifères Menacé d’Extinction, Brussels: IUPN.

Kostveit, Åsta Østmoe (2000): Fuglen i folkekulturen [The Bird in Vernacular Culture], Oslo: Landbruksforlaget.

Kverndokk, Kyrre (In press): “Talking about Your Generation: ‘Our Children’ as a Trope in Climate Change Discourse,” Ethnologia Europaea.

Legagneux, Pierre, Nicolas Casajus, Kevin Cazelles, Clément Chevallier, Marion Chevrinais, Lorelei Guéry, Claire Jacquet, Mikael Jaffré, Marie-José Naud, Fanny Noisette, Pascale Ropars, Steve Vissault, Philippe Archambault, Joel Bêty, Dominique Berteaux & Dominique Gravel (2018): “Our House Is Burning: Discrepancy in Climate Change vs. Biodiversity Coverage in the Media as Compared to Scientific Literature,” Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 5, 1–6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fevo.2017.00175

Lyons, John D. (1989): Exemplum: the Rhetoric of Example in Early Modern France and Italy, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9781400860814

Mazor, Tessa, Christopher Doropoulos, Florian Schwarzmueller, Daniel W. Gladish, Nagalingam Kumaran, Katharina Merkel, Moreno Di Marco & Vesna Gagic (2018): “Global Mismatch of Policy and Research on Drivers of Biodiversity Loss,” Nature ecology & evolution, 2:7, 1071–1074. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-018-0563-x

Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre (2018): Norwegian Red List for Species: https://www.biodiversity.no/Pages/135380/Norwegian_Red_List_for_Species (accessed 16/2/2019).

Romsbotn, Brit (2015): “Står i fare for å bli utrydda [In Danger of Becoming Extinct],” Jærbladet, 20 November 2015.

Sandholm, Jarl Gunnar (2015): “Rypa på rødlista [The Ptarmigan on the Red List],” Helgelendingen, 19 November 2015.

Severinsen, Jan Eskil (2015): “Varsellys for rypa [Warning Light for the Ptarmigan],” Avisa Nordland, 19 November 2015.

Sheldon, Rebekah (2016): The Child to Come: Life after the Human Catastrophe, Minneapolis, London: University of Minnesota Press. https://doi.org/10.5749/minnesota/9780816689873.001.0001

Smart, Jane, Craig Hilton-Taylor & Russell A. Mittermeier (2014): The IUCN Red List: 50 Years of Conservation, Washington D.C.: Cemex and Earth in Focus.

Sortlandsavisa (2015): “Nå er rypa truet [Now the Ptarmigan is Threatened],” Sortlandsavisa, 19 November 2015.

Steinset, Trond A. & Terje Olav Rundtom (2017): “Færre ryper i sikte [Fewer Ptarmigans in Sight],” Statistics Norway, 7 September 2017: https://www.ssb.no/jord-skog-jakt-og-fiskeri/artikler-og-publikasjoner/faerre-ryper-i-sikte (accessed 25/2/2019)

Sundtoft, Tine (2015): “Vi trenger kunnskap for å ta riktige beslutninger [We Need Knowledge to Make the Right Decisions],” Ministry of Climate and Environment, 18 November 2015: https://www.regjeringen.no/no/aktuelt/artsdatabanken/id2461954/ (accessed 06/03/2019).

Theodorsen, Siri W. (2015): “Nye arter trues nå av utryddelse [New Species Now Threatened by Extinction],” Fosna-Folket, 19 November 2015.

Tillhagen, Carl-Herman (1978): Fåglarna i folktron [The Birds in Folklore], Stockholm: LTs förlag.

Trønder-Avisa (2015): “Rype og gaupe på rødlista [Ptarmigan and Lynx on the Red List],” Trønder-Avisa, 19 November 2015.

van Dooren, Thom (2014): Flight Ways: Life and Loss at the Edge of Extinction, New York: Columbia University Press. https://doi.org/10.7312/columbia/9780231166188.001.0001

Veríssimo, Diogo, Douglas C. MacMillan, Robert J. Smith, Jennifer Crees & Zoe G. Davies (2014): “Has Climate Change Taken Prominence over Biodiversity Conservation?” BioScience, 64:7, 625–629. https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biu079

Vincent, Jack & Simon Noel (1966): Red data book. Volume 2. Aves, Morges, Switzerland: IUCN.

Whyte, Kyle Powys (2013): “On the Role of Traditional Ecological Knowledge as a Collaborative Concept: a Philosophical Study,” Ecological Processes, 2:7. https://doi.org/10.1186/2192-1709-2-7

Whyte, Kyle (2017): “Indigenous Climate Change Studies: Indigenizing Futures, Decolonizing the Anthropocene,” English Language Notes, 55:1-2, 153–162. https://doi.org/10.1215/00138282-55.1-2.153

WWF Norway (2015): “Ny rødliste for truede arter – 172 arter i Norge trues av klimaendringer [New Red List for Threatened Species – 172 Species in Norway are Threatened by Climate Change],” WWF Norway, 18 November 2015.

Young, Juliette C., Kerry A. Waylen, Simo Sarkki, Steve Albon, Ian Bainbridge, Estelle Balian, James Davidson, David Edwards, Roddy Fairley, Ceri Margerison,

Davy McCracken, Roger Owen, Christopher P. Quine, Charles Stewart-Roper, Des Thompson, Rob Tinch, Sybille Van den Hove & Allan Watt (2014): “Improving the Science-Policy Dialogue to Meet the Challenges of Biodiversity Conservation: Having Conversations Rather than Talking at One-Another,” Biodiversity and Conservation, 23:2, 387–404. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-013-0607-0

Zaccai, Edwin & William Adams (2012): “How Far are Biodiversity Loss and Climate Change Similar as Policy Issues?” Environment, Development and Sustainability, 14:4, 557–571. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-012-9344-x

Ødegaard, Martin (2015): “Klima og arealinngrep i dødelig samspill [Climate and Changes in Land Use in Deadly Interaction],” Friends of the Earth Norway, 18 November 2015: https://naturvernforbundet.no/naturvern/vern_av_arter/klima-og-arealinngrep-i-dodelig-samspill-article34363-152.html (accessed 29/8/2017).

Ødemark, John (2015): “Avatar in the Amazon – Narratives of Cultural Conversion and Environmental Salvation between Cultural Theory and Popular Culture,” Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research, 7:3, 455–478. https://doi.org/10.3384/cu.2000.1525.1572455

Published
2019-11-27