Advanced

It's only natural : assessing the framing of the 2019/20 Australian bushfires

Tropeano, Lauren LU (2020) In Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science MESM02 20202
LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)
Abstract
Bushfires in Australia have long been rhetorically painted in dark overtones, representing nature’s onslaught on the human realm. Yet they are a phenomenon juxtaposing both darkness and light – chiaroscuro; using the unprecedented 2019/20 bushfire season as a case study, this thesis demonstrates how exploring the political ecology of disaster can open windows into the nature of our world extending beyond the burnt bush alone. Framing as an analytical tool is used to ascertain how the fires were conceptualised by the Australian government and a variety of alternative actor groups. This process not only serves to highlight the contrasts and conflicts present in these varied framings, but the power that frames themselves hold in influencing... (More)
Bushfires in Australia have long been rhetorically painted in dark overtones, representing nature’s onslaught on the human realm. Yet they are a phenomenon juxtaposing both darkness and light – chiaroscuro; using the unprecedented 2019/20 bushfire season as a case study, this thesis demonstrates how exploring the political ecology of disaster can open windows into the nature of our world extending beyond the burnt bush alone. Framing as an analytical tool is used to ascertain how the fires were conceptualised by the Australian government and a variety of alternative actor groups. This process not only serves to highlight the contrasts and conflicts present in these varied framings, but the power that frames themselves hold in influencing problem-solution pathways. This thesis posits that longstanding and embedded institutional and cultural ties to extractive industries manifested themselves in the way the bushfires were rhetorically discussed and materially addressed. Fire has come to coexist in the Australian psyche both as a malevolent destructive force and a beast to be tamed; this dualism is premised on an inherent divide between the human and natural worlds that allows for the illusion of control. In a contemporary context already marred by the influence of climate change and the looming threat of its continued presence, seeing bushfires as ‘natural’ belies an understanding of disaster that is profoundly socio-cultural and human-influenced. Framing the most recent bushfire season so – as something we have dealt with before and can continue to ‘manage’ – fails to account for the complexity inherent in the natural world and our connections to it. Instead, it predisposes the solutions to seek what is known and comfortable, encouraging us towards a renewed embrace of the status quo. The challenge moving forward lies in shifting our perspective inwards, towards the possibility of alternate socio-ecological relationships that can accommodate fire, instead of outwards towards management and control strategies designed to fight it. How this shift can be reconciled with a political climate forgiving of resource extraction and dismissive of climate change speaks to the intricacies that accompany wicked problems in sustainability. (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Tropeano, Lauren LU
supervisor
organization
course
MESM02 20202
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
bushfire, Australia, frames, governance, sustainability science, political ecology, human/nature relationships
publication/series
Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science
report number
2020:045
language
English
id
9030972
date added to LUP
2020-10-20 08:30:54
date last changed
2020-10-20 08:30:54
@misc{9030972,
  abstract     = {Bushfires in Australia have long been rhetorically painted in dark overtones, representing nature’s onslaught on the human realm. Yet they are a phenomenon juxtaposing both darkness and light – chiaroscuro; using the unprecedented 2019/20 bushfire season as a case study, this thesis demonstrates how exploring the political ecology of disaster can open windows into the nature of our world extending beyond the burnt bush alone. Framing as an analytical tool is used to ascertain how the fires were conceptualised by the Australian government and a variety of alternative actor groups. This process not only serves to highlight the contrasts and conflicts present in these varied framings, but the power that frames themselves hold in influencing problem-solution pathways. This thesis posits that longstanding and embedded institutional and cultural ties to extractive industries manifested themselves in the way the bushfires were rhetorically discussed and materially addressed. Fire has come to coexist in the Australian psyche both as a malevolent destructive force and a beast to be tamed; this dualism is premised on an inherent divide between the human and natural worlds that allows for the illusion of control. In a contemporary context already marred by the influence of climate change and the looming threat of its continued presence, seeing bushfires as ‘natural’ belies an understanding of disaster that is profoundly socio-cultural and human-influenced. Framing the most recent bushfire season so – as something we have dealt with before and can continue to ‘manage’ – fails to account for the complexity inherent in the natural world and our connections to it. Instead, it predisposes the solutions to seek what is known and comfortable, encouraging us towards a renewed embrace of the status quo. The challenge moving forward lies in shifting our perspective inwards, towards the possibility of alternate socio-ecological relationships that can accommodate fire, instead of outwards towards management and control strategies designed to fight it. How this shift can be reconciled with a political climate forgiving of resource extraction and dismissive of climate change speaks to the intricacies that accompany wicked problems in sustainability.},
  author       = {Tropeano, Lauren},
  keyword      = {bushfire,Australia,frames,governance,sustainability science,political ecology,human/nature relationships},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science},
  title        = {It's only natural : assessing the framing of the 2019/20 Australian bushfires},
  year         = {2020},
}