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Mediated giants : giant tree frames and social movements in British Columbia media, 1986-92 Deckant, Devon


Research shows how appeals to save charismatic megafauna have been used effectively as tools in campaigns for larger conservation-oriented projects. However, analysis over parallel efforts with ‘charismatic megaflora’ – specifically giant trees – has largely been neglected. During the contentious period of land use debates in British Columbia of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Wilderness Preservation Movement (WPM) activists mobilized for collective action against monolithic forestry corporations. A rallying point for activists was spurred in part by the discovery of the largest Sitka Spruce trees in Canada, which were slated for clear-cut logging. In a concerted effort to prevent this harvest and mobilize public support for broader preservation efforts, WPM actors engaged in media outlets to shape the debate – often through giant tree frames. This research evaluates the framing of this land use debate around giant trees as an effective media outreach strategy for expanding support for preservation efforts, as well as exploring their underlying supportive frameworks. Content and network analyses of sample news media articles spanning the period 1986-92 assess the construction, salience, and relationships of giant tree frames in coverage of WPM. Analyses of a singular framing strategy reveal the efficacy of striking imagery as well as the repertoire of discursive tools underpinning efforts to communicate social movement ideals to larger audiences. Results suggest that the construction of environmental problems is largely reliant upon scientific rationale, whereas economic and emotional appeals either contest or reinforce scientific claims. Even with the ambivalent nature of science in constructing environmentalist claims, scientific framing successfully communicates environmental problem salience, potentially of import for contemporary collective action strategies.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada

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