Revolutionary Talk: Communicating Climate Justice
This thesis examines the role that story-based strategy and narrative-oriented communications play in the Climate Justice Movement’s counterhegemonic struggle against neoliberal discursive hegemony. As more and more people come to accept the reality of the climate crisis a new struggle is emerging, a discursive struggle over what the crisis actually means. This project identifies an ideological polarization in which climate justice represents a socially transformative bottom up approach to climate change, while hegemonic neoliberal elites advocate for market solutions, technofixes and minimal social change. My project therefore places emphasis upon the role that ideology, norms and values play in shaping attitudes towards climate change solutions and societal transformation. I use Laclau and Mouffe’s theory of discourse and hegemony to provide a framework for studying the rhetoric and implications of climate change discourse. I examine two case studies in the United States: The Our Power Campaign in Richmond, California and the Fossil Free UC fossil fuel divestment campaign as sites of clear hegemonic struggle over how climate change is understood. Together these sites provide a valuable cross-section of climate justice organizations in the US. I discuss the implications of their communications strategies, and in particular what Reinsborough and Canning call story-based strategy. I pay close attention to how reframing narratives help restructure public discourse, as well as the successes and limitations of these discursive interventions. I have found that the strategies discussed in these case studies are beginning to shift discursive conditions around solutions to climate change and can be refined, reworked and applied to many other climate justice campaigns.