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Making sense of complex socio-ecological issues: a frame-analysis of Arctic natural resource development

Davies, William Thomas Ronald (2018) Making sense of complex socio-ecological issues: a frame-analysis of Arctic natural resource development. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Environmental and natural resource issues are often framed in multiple ways by multiple stakeholders. This is especially the case in relation to Arctic natural resource development: a complex issue bearing the hallmarks of modern sustainability challenges. With the increasing attention placed towards the Arctic’s natural resources comes a growing number of diverse voices, producing a discursive environment fertile for frame-conflicts and susceptible to misunderstanding, confusion and conflation. For many, the central challenge in tackling socio-ecological problems deriving from these complex issues centres on conflicting frames: from how problems are initially defined to what are appropriate solutions, these issues are social and political constructs and arenas for deep disagreement. As such, if policy efforts to meet the sustainability challenges associated with Arctic natural resources are to be successful, an understanding of frames proves essential. This thesis contributes towards this important research area by undertaking a frame-analysis of contemporary Arctic natural resource development. This thesis consists of three empirical strands. The first examines media-frames in international news media coverage surrounding natural resources in an Arctic context. Using Greenland as a case-study, it illustrates a media portrayal of a close-knit relationship between a warming climate and natural resource development. The second strand uses Q-Methodology to explore frame-conflicts within a group of Arctic stakeholders around the issue of Arctic offshore petroleum, finding significant divergence across framings, with some bridges of consensus evident that could potentially facilitate collaborative policymaking. The third strand examines the role of scale-frames within the discussion around Arctic offshore petroleum, identifying several scale-challenges often related to the Arctic’s nebulous relationship with scale. Themes emerging across these three strands point to a need for alternative conceptual approaches to space that capture the inter-relational complexity behind Arctic natural resource development. Relational geographies and assemblage-thinking are presented as useful conceptual lens in which to engage with this complexity. This thesis argues that despite its inherent complexity, an understanding of the various ways Arctic natural resources are framed can offer guidance for policymakers such as highlighting the risks of dominant tropes, the existence of potential bridges and the need for more refined terminology when necessary. In doing so, this thesis highlights the utility of mixed-methods frame analysis as a heuristic tool to better understand complex socio-ecological issues.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Arctic, natural resource development, frame analysis, scale challenges, Arctic stakeholders, Q-methodology, Arctic offshore petroleum
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds) > School of Earth and Environment (Leeds)
The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds) > School of Earth and Environment (Leeds) > Sustainability Research Institute (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.745587
Depositing User: Mr William Thomas Ronald Davies
Date Deposited: 19 Jun 2018 14:39
Last Modified: 25 Jul 2018 09:57
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/20662

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