Framing New Environmental Cultures for Sustainability. Communication and Sensemaking in Three Intractable Multiparty Conflicts in the EbreBiosfera, Spain

  • Jordi PradesEmail author
  • Aitana De la Varga


Since communication defines conflict and intervenes in the discursive construction of sustainable development, it is more than just a mere tool in mediation processes aimed at resolving environmental intractable conflicts, but is itself a constitutive component of the conflict. Through communication, the discursive and organizational practices and logics of institutions like the law, government and social movements frame and make sense of conflicts regarding the environment. Our objective is to analyse communicative processes in environmental conflicts as an engine driving social change to sustainable development. From an interactional approach to framing we analyse three environmental disputes related to water and energy in the Terres de l’Ebre (Southern Catalonia). We observe how, as an alternative to a conflictive frame, the UNESCO recognition of the Terres de l’Ebre as a Biosphere Reserve (EbreBiosfera) is configured in a proactive, cohesive and consensual frame. In all three conflicts new meanings for sustainable development associated with environmental and social justice and democracy have resulted in new environmentally sustainable cultures, specifically, new water and energy cultures that produce local results of global application. In terms of implementation of these cultures, communicative legislation or “soft law”, understood as a horizontal interactive two-way dialogue, is more effective and offers more satisfactory long-term results than a traditional top-down approach.


Intractable environmental conflict Organizational communication Interactional framing Sensemaking Sustainability culture 



This research was conducted within the framework of: (1) the Martí Franquès Research Fellowship Programme of the URV (2013PMF-PIPF-68), funded by the Endesa Foundation and the Ascó-Vandellòs Nuclear Association and (2) the research project titled “From sustainable development to environmental justice: towards a conceptual matrix for global governance ”, financed by the Ministry of Economy and Finance for the period 2014-2016 (DER2013-44009-P).


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ASTERISC Communication Research GroupUniversitat Rovira i Virgili (URV)TarragonaSpain
  2. 2.CEDAT Centre for Environmental LawUniversitat Rovira i Virgili (URV)TarragonaSpain

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