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Saturday, November 20, 2004


No longer will I refer to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as ANWR (pronounced "anwar"). Listening to Carl Pope of Sierra Club, I heard a very persuasive argument against falling into a deliberate framing trap. Pope said that the administration never refers to "wildlife" or "refuge" when referring to the site of potential oil extraction. By using the contraction "ANWR", citizens do not get the repetition necessary to imprint in their minds the environmental sensitivity of the area. The administration (and corporate interests) do not want this association to happen in the public's collective consciousness.

Not only does this work to erase the rather noble goal of supporting the environment, but the framing technique can even work to add negative connotations to the discussion. How does this happen? The theory goes that "anwar" starts to sound mechanical and, further, meaningless to anyone new to the eco-political1 issue. Sad to say, but for anyone slightly up-to-date on history, it might even remind them of a certain historical Egyptian leader. And with anti-Arab sentiment nowadays, the contraction actually might project worse connotations ("anwar, where's that? the desert?").

I know this sounds like a fairly subtle argument, and perhaps a flimsy premise, but ideas have to get promulgated somehow.

Beyond the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge issue (just practicin'), I would also suggest to use the framing technique on other energy issues. For example, we should never use the term "Peak Oil" without adornment. Instead, if we regularly use "Peak Oil and Depletion", the significance would start to hit home harder. Without the extra verbiage, it only sounds like a glowing rejoinder ("by jove, we've reached the summit!"). Instead the full "Peak Oil and Depletion", begins to remind us that we have just hit the wall in the marathon, and bonked.

Remember the "Oil Crisis" of the 70's? I wonder if anybody in the administration would dare use that contextual framing again ...

1 The term "eco-political" is also subject to ambiguous framing. It could mean economic-political or ecological-political. Depending on the person's perspective, the impact changes significantly.


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