University of Tasmania
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Community resistance to climate change: Discourses of Tasmanian farmers

posted on 2023-05-26, 03:40 authored by Fleming, AJ
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' responses. 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.


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