Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
While environmental and linguistic anthropologists have long recognized the socially-constructed nature of human relationships with the non-human world (Mühlhäusler & Pace, 2006; Stibbe, 2015), less work has examined an increasingly urgent question—how communities discursively construct a changing climate and its effects on local weather events and ecosystems. This paper examines the construction of climate change among hunters and fishers in the rural western United States, a politically-conservative community with deep ties to environmental conservation. Through an analysis of ethnographic interviews, I argue that community members’ discursive constructions of climate change are fundamentally shaped by their hunter/fisher identities. Climate change and its risks are described, for example, through the lens of wildlife behavior and the possible effects on games species and their habitat—delimiting the spatial and temporal extent of what is understood as “climate change,” and foregrounding or backgrounding both actors in the crisis as well as the affected. Furthermore, hunters and fishers construct the appropriate scope of human responses through their self-identification as hunters and “stewards of wildlife”—a lens which excludes responses that extend beyond national borders, affect primarily non-game species, or are are affiliated with left-wing political policies. Through an analysis of U.S. hunter and fisher discourse around climate change, its effects, and the appropriate responses to it, this project thus illustrates how locally-relevant identities shape the discursive construction of a changing environment. It also shows the importance of understanding the intersection of identities and discursive engagements with a changing climate for creating and communicating effective climate change policies.