THE HUMAN-NATURE RELATIONSHIP AS PORTRAYED IN NEWSPAPER COVERAGE OF GLOBAL WARMING
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After more than 20 years of mass mediated discussion, with no United States legislative action on global warming, the discourse used in the debate about warming does not appear to be spurring people to action. The continued state of inaction suggests that the discourse may be reinforcing particular perspectives while limiting alternative voices that might move the country forward on ways of addressing global warming. This study uses a critical-rhetoric approach to examine the dominant patterns of discourse in major newspaper coverage of global warming from 2009 to 2011. It then critiques how those patterns construct people's understanding of and relationship to the environment. The study contrasts different discourses expressed in the newspapers and compares these dominant rhetorical patterns with others that challenge prevailing perspectives on human conduct toward nature. The study identifies and presents three key discourses that make up a continuum of portrayals related to the human-nature relationship. These discourses include (1) nature-out-of-reach discourse, (2) struggle-for-control discourse, and (3) making-a-connection discourse. Nature-out-of-reach discourse constructs a distant human-nature relationship through language that positions nature far away from humans, who are portrayed as unable to move toward nature. Struggle-for-control discourse constructs a relationship based on human domination by portraying people and nature as adversaries and describing people establishing control through the assertion of power and management of nature. Making-a-connection discourse constructs a more equal, interactive relationship for nature and humans by presenting them as communicators and respondents and by emphasizing a shared experience between the two.In the implications section, the study argues that nature-out-of-reach discourse and struggle-for-control discourse dominate the coverage, reinforcing traditional perspectives that see nature as subordinate to humans. The section then shows how competition amongst the discourses, which can be strengthened by the inclusion of more making-a-connection discourse, is important to challenging dominant understandings of the human-nature relationship and moving society toward more sufficient responses to global warming.