Social Perspectives on Hybrid Poplar Biofuels in the Pacific Northwest: Structuring Stakeholder Viewpoints and Analyzing Media Content
Lenentine, Miku M.
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For scientists, policymakers, and stewards of this earth, it is critical to find ways to recognize human interdependence with life on this planet and live within the boundaries which preserve the balance of global systems. In this research, I provide knowledge about stakeholder perspectives on the development of a new biofuels industry in the Pacific Northwest. In order to support constructive policy dialogue and program implementation, policymakers, natural resource managers, and communication specialists need to understand how citizens make sense of and contribute to the discourse surrounding environmental issues. A direct way to gain access to meaningful social perspectives is through examining stakeholders’ social discourse. I used Q-methodology to examine stakeholder discourse and a grounded interpretive mixed methods analysis to examine online discourse on the social media site Twitter. Social discourse is often chaotic and difficult to access for purposes of policy analysis. Q-technique and grounded interpretive approaches are both well-suited to systematically structuring social discourse so it can be useful for policymakers in designing effective policy outcomes. Stakeholders included: farmers and growers; refinery, fuel, and/or energy producers; energy associations; bioenergy companies; labor unions; investment companies; research institutions; and advocacy organizations. In addition, I identified relevant information for policymakers about the biofuels issue public, social discourse, and communication structure found in the Twittersphere. Results from the three studies echo other researchers’ findings that social perspectives surrounding biofuels are quite complex. Findings from the two Q-studies indicate frame flexibility across stakeholders: individual stakeholders held multiple perspectives, and some even held conflicting ones. The overall sentiment of the tweet-based biofuels discourse was largely positive, with 60% of the issue public viewing biofuels positively and 16% viewing them negatively. However, sentiment was mixed for four of the six stakeholder groups. Some of this complexity may be explained by the overarching finding that there are distinct micro-discourses existing within the broader biofuels discourse. Priming any particular aspect of this discourse may influence how stakeholders conceptualize biofuels development issues. Ultimately, this kind of clarity is crucial to facilitating a constructive policy dialogue, rather than one in which people unwittingly speak past each other.
- Forestry