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Narratives Can Motivate Environmental Action: The Whiskey Creek Ocean Acidification Story

Abstract

Even when environmental data quantify the risks and benefits of delayed responses to rapid anthropogenic change, institutions rarely respond promptly. We propose that narratives complementing environmental datasets can motivate responsive environmental policy. To explore this idea, we relate a case study in which a narrative of economic loss due to regionally rapid ocean acidification—an anthropogenic change—helped connect knowledge with action. We pose three hypotheses to explain why narratives might be particularly effective in linking science to environmental policy, drawing from the literature of economics, environmental policy, and cognitive psychology. It seems that yet-untold narratives may hold similar potential for strengthening the feedback between environmental data and policy and motivating regional responses to other environmental problems.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank COMPASS for the opportunity to participate in the ocean acidification communications training in September 2012, from which the idea for this manuscript derived. Two anonymous reviewers substantially improved the product, and the authors are especially grateful for the thoughtful reviews that pointed out additional timely and relevant literature that provided further context for the piece.

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Correspondence to Ryan P. Kelly.

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Kelly, R.P., Cooley, S.R. & Klinger, T. Narratives Can Motivate Environmental Action: The Whiskey Creek Ocean Acidification Story. AMBIO 43, 592–599 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-013-0442-2

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Keywords

  • Environmental decision-making
  • Social–ecological systems
  • Human dimensions
  • Narratives
  • Marine policy