Accepted Paper:

The Helpless Polar Bear and the Suffering Child, or the Resilient Victim? (Re)negotiating Anthropocentrism and Biocentrism in the Media: A Case Study on Two Multimodal Climate Change Frames  
Renée Moernaut (Vrije Universiteit Brussel)Luc Pauwels (University of Antwerp)

Paper short abstract:

Our research aims to demonstrate how Euro-American anthropocentrism keeps shaping the narrative underlying seemingly differential climate change frames in the media, while being challenged by emerging biocentric viewpoints. This is done by means of a visual-verbal qualitative framing analysis.

Paper long abstract:

The future of our climate largely depends on our conceptions and engagement, which are, among others, influenced by media frames (Graber, 1988). Various frames determine the debate, directing our attention to concerns like 'Environmental Justice' (the disproportionate suffering of 'the South') or 'Circle of Life' (man's impact on the Earth system). Nevertheless, most of these seemingly differential viewpoints can be situated, on a deeper level, within the same anthropocentric paradigm (Pepermans & Maeseele, 2014), which promotes ('Western') human superiority or development. Non-hegemonic biocentric values, like collaboration or moderation, are usually silenced (Dryzek, 1997). Alternative media, however, are more likely to reproduce the latter (Harcup, 2014).

Little research has addressed the visual - let alone multimodal - (sub)frames of climate change (e.g., O'Neill, 2013), particularly in alternative media. Therefore, conducting a multimodal qualitative framing analysis (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006; Van Gorp, 2006), we discuss the visual realization of the Environmental Justice (EJ) and the Circle of Life (CoL) (sub)frames. Our corpus encompasses three mainstream northern Belgian newspapers and one alternative website (February 2012-February 2014; n=731). Our results demonstrate that the mainstream EJ frame and the mainstream CoL frame are highly similar. Both decontextualize the problems, focusing on individual causes or consequences or situating ('Western') man above the victims. Icons as the polar bear or the 'suffering child' illustrate this. Contrariwise, the alternative view does contextualize. Emphasizing equality, it encourages deeper levels of engagement. Depictions of victim-agents, for instance, highlight responsibilities beyond the emission of GHG.

Panel P32
Visualizing Climate - Changing Futures?