The Language of Conservation

  • Jacqueline ComitoEmail author
  • Matt Helmers


The words we use define who we are and how we think about the world around us. Our language as we discuss problems of agricultural nonpoint source water pollution conveys our images and meanings of being a good farmer and socially acceptable farming practices. Re-languaging the conservation message and increased efforts to give consistent messages are important strategies in developing a culture of conservation and changing social norms about the value and urgency of protecting vulnerable land and water resources.


Water Quality Soil Erosion Conservation Practice Local Stakeholder Natural Resource Conservation Service 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  2. For the purposes of this paper, we will use the term “re-language,” since it occurred organically during a listening session. The use of “language” or “re-language” is better identified as “discourse,” the institutionalized way of thinking that is realized or made real through language. “Discourse” defines socially acceptable speech. Discourse is not limited to words but include all of the signs utilized by a society to communicate and direct our way of seeing issues and giving meaning to our actions and ourselves. Google Scholar
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  12. This group consisted of Iowa State University Extension agricultural professionals (such as field agronomists and program specialists), NRCS District Conservationists, watershed coordinators, teachers, county naturalists, and local Soil and Water Conservation District commissioners. Google Scholar
  13. This study was funded through the Iowa Learning Farms program. Heartland Regional Water Coordination Initiative paid for the transcription of the listening sessions. Google Scholar
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  22. In particular, it seems that IDNR, IDALS, NRCS, and ISU Extension need to work harder at listening to each other. Limited research and program dollars often place these groups in competition vying for power, credit, and dollars, with each group thinking they have the “best” solution for the state. Google Scholar
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  24. We were aided in this section on ILF from members of our communications team: Jerry DeWitt, Paul Lasley, Carol Brown, John Lundvall, Jamie Benning, Xiaobo Zhou, and Jean McGuire. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Project manager for the Iowa Learning Farms, Department of SociologyIowa State UniversityAmesUSA

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