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Contrasting communications of sustainability science in the media coverage of palm oil agriculture on tropical peatlands in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore

Liu, Felicia H M., Ganesan, Vignaa and Smith, T. E. L. (2020) Contrasting communications of sustainability science in the media coverage of palm oil agriculture on tropical peatlands in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Environmental Science and Policy, 114. 162 - 169. ISSN 1462-9011

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Identification Number: 10.1016/j.envsci.2020.07.004

Abstract

This article analyses the denialist narratives of the negative environmental impact of oil palm plantations on tropical peat by the media of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Specifically, we focus on media coverage of the 2016 International Peat Congress, where scientifically misleading claims that it is sustainable to develop oil palm plantations on tropical peatlands were made. We found that media reporting of the denialist narrative is more prevalent than that of the peer-reviewed science consensus-view that plantations on tropical peat could cause excessive greenhouse gas emissions and enhance the risk of fires. Four mutually complementary narratives were used by Indonesian and Malaysian media to construe denialism, which closely resemble the four climate denialist narratives identified by Elsasser and Dunlap (2013). These denialist narratives draw heavily upon information advocated by divergent knowledge communities (Goldstein 2016) and appeal to a nationalist sentiment of ‘us’ - palm oil-producing developing countries - and ‘them’ - western developed countries producing research critical of the industry. The Malaysian press has most extensively deployed this nationalistic sentiment, whereas the Singaporean media has not actively endorsed or rejected any of the denialist narratives. Our findings suggests that media representation of the issue is a reflection of an amalgamation of economic, diplomatic and nationalistic concerns, determined by political, socio-cultural nuances specific to each country. Importantly, our article alerts to the continuation of unsustainable practices as justified by the media to the public, and that the prevalence of these denialist narratives constitute a significant obstacle in resolving pressing issues such as transboundary haze, biodiversity loss, and land-use change related greenhouse gas emissions in Southeast Asia.

Item Type: Article
Official URL: https://www.sciencedirect.com/journal/environmenta...
Additional Information: © 2020 Elsevier Ltd
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1990 Broadcasting
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2020 13:48
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2021 23:34
URI: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/106208

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