How do people conceptualize and narrate environmental change? How does society define environmental problems and frame solutions? And with what effects on processes of environmental governance?  

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Narrating the contemporary waterscape

Stories are powerful communicators.  Narratives draw people together and influence how we define policy problems.  When it comes to the Colorado River, one narrative has appeared persistently over the decades and especially in recent years: the story of the source-to-sea expedition, tracing the river from headwaters to (dry) delta.  Here, CSM students Caleb Ring and JoJo Clark join me in a narrative analysis that explores this story and its effectiveness for communicating cumulative human impacts on river systems.  (For a recent High Country News article related to this project, click here.)  

Coauthors: students C. Ring & J. Clark, Colorado School of Mines

Funding: Colorado School of Mines Undergraduate Research Fellowships

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learning from catastrophic wildfires

When covering disasters, the press tends to focus on the drama of the here-and-now and fails to investigate the underlying systemic policy problems that exacerbate hazards and vulnerabilities.  And yet, when we looked closely at local media discourse about the record-breaking 2012 wildfire season in Colorado, we found a "signal" of learning and adaptation amidst the noise.  It appeared on the wildfires' anniversaries, and suggests that these timeframes are especially important for communities efforts to draw lessons from past disasters. 

Coauthors: E. Kobele, UNV-Reno, D. Crow, L. Lawhon, J. Berggren, J. Huda, University of Colorado

Funding: none 


debating how close is too close to drill in cities

One of the unique features of the most recent oil and gas boom in the U.S. is that it has brought significant drilling activities into urban and suburban areas.  More than 15.3 million people live within a mile of an oil or gas well drilled since 2000 (Gold &McGinty 2013).  With this new geography of energy production, an important debate has emerged over the appropriate distance between wells and people in cities.  An analysis of stakeholder narratives in this policy debate suggests that the stories used to convey policy arguments may be inadvertently constraining democratic engagement.   

Funding: University of Colorado Dean's Award