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Community resistance to climate change: Discourses of Tasmanian farmers


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Fleming, AJ 2010 , 'Community resistance to climate change: Discourses of Tasmanian farmers', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Climate change is a major issue for agriculture. Changes in farming practices will
be necessary to reduce emissions and to adapt to a changing climate and to new
social expectations. The way the agricultural community is able to respond is
particularly important for the promotion of action. This thesis examines farmers’
responses and resistance to climate change, with the primary aim to improve
relevant communication in agricultural extension. The research demonstrates how
the use of discourse analysis creates opportunities to increase the agency of
farmers and overcome resistance to change.
An examination of the published literature on climate change communication and
behaviour demonstrates that currently the literature constructs three dominant
discourses. A review using the principles of critical literacy illustrates the ways in
which these discourses create resistance in farming communities and shows that
the discourses in the literature do not include the views of farmers. Consequently,
this thesis develops discourses specific to two Tasmanian farming communities
developed from interviews conducted in 2008. The 68 respondents included 22
apple growers, 29 dairy farmers, 12 agricultural consultants and 5 climate
scientists working on fine scale climate projections for agriculture.
This research is cross-disciplinary in its application of poststructural theory in an
agricultural context, and in its use of discourse analysis techniques to examine
farmers’ capacities to act and their resistance to change. The discourse analysis is
informed by poststructural theory with a focus on language, individual capacities
for action and possibilities for change. The study uses constructivist grounded
theory (Charmaz 2006) and a genealogical discourse analysis (Carabine 2001) to
construct four dominant discourses which inform farmers’ perspectives of climate
change. Farmers are located across the range of these discourses. The discourses
are the Discourse of Money, an issue of business viability; the Discourse of The
Earth, an environmental concern; The Discourse of Human Responsibility, a call
for social action; and the Discourse of Questioning, a problem of trust and information. The features and competing concerns of each discourse contribute to
resistance to act on climate change by limiting farmers’ possibilities for action.
Practitioners working on agricultural policy and extension programs involving
climate change can improve their methods of communication by varying their
approaches based on the knowledge of how different discourses shape farmers’
The key proposition of the thesis is to argue for multiple understandings of
climate change and the potential of awareness of discourse to increase the agency of farmers in relation to climate change.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Fleming, AJ
Keywords: climate change, resistance, discourse, discourse analysis, agriculture, Tasmania, social research
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Copyright 2010 the Author

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