Making Invisible Changes Visible: Animal Examples and the Communication of Biodiversity Loss
Keywords:Biodiversity loss, climate change, endangered species, environmental communication, exemplarity, Red List, Cuculus canorus, Lagopus spp
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.
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