Loving Glacier National Park Online: Climate Change Communication and Virtual Place Attachment

Part of the Climate Change Management book series (CCM)


We evaluate the use of place attachment and recommend best practices for the use of this tool in communicating climate change online. Focusing on the case study of Glacier National Park, Montana, USA, we used a mixed methods approach to: (1) design a website to evoke senses of identity, dependence, and emotion central to place attachment while also incorporating information on climate change science, adaptation, and mitigation; and (2) assess visitors’ sense of climate change concern at various geographic levels via pre- and post-website viewing survey analyses. Quantitative survey results show statistically significant differences between climate change concerns before and after viewing the website, with concern increasing for Glacier National Park irrespective of demographic and ideological identification. Qualitative analyses of survey comments adapted Schweizer et al.’s (Environmental Communication 7(1):42–62, 2013) and Leiserowitz et al’s (Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, New Haven, 2009) Six Americas categories to interpret how respondents’ engage with climate change. The results of this pilot study indicate that place attachment shows promise as a tool for online climate communication and is useful in engaging different types of audiences.


Place attachment Climate change Online communication Interactive websites Glacier National Park (GNP) 



We would like to especially credit Dori Gorczyca, whose senior honors thesis kick-started this paper. Dori created the website, designed the survey, collected the data, and did much of the initial quantitative analysis. We thank the Provost’s Office and the Department of Environmental Studies at Gettysburg College, the United States Geological Survey, and the National Park Service. We also greatly appreciate help from Dr. Andy Wilson, Dr. Wendy Piniak, Teagan Tomlin, and Matt Beehr.


  1. Adams PC, Gynnild A (2013) Environmental messages in online media: the role of place. Environ Commun 7(1):113–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adger WN, Barnett J, Chapin IS, Ellemor H (2011) This must be the place: underrepresentation of identity and meaning in climate change decision-making. Glob Environ Polit 11(2):1–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Banse L (2013) Seeing is believing—a guide to visual storytelling best practices. Resour Media Rep. Retrieved from
  4. Bell P, Lewenstein B, Shouse AW, Feder MA (eds) (2009) Learning science in informal environments: people, places, and pursuits. The National Academies Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  5. Brownlee MJ, Hallo JC, Jodice LW, Moore DD, Powell RB, Wright BA (2015) Place attachment and marine recreationists’ attitudes toward offshore wind energy development. J Leisure Res 47(2):263–284CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cheng C, Kuo H (2015) Bonding to a new place never visited: exploring the relationship between landscape elements and place bonding. Tour Manag 46:546–560CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cordero EC, Todd AM, Abellera D (2008) Climate change education and the ecological footprint. Bull Am Meteor Soc 89(6):865–872CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Corner A, Roberts O, Chiari S, Völler S, Mayrhuber ES, Mandl S, Monson K (2015a) How do young people engage with climate change? The role of knowledge, values, message framing, and trusted communicators. Wires Clim Change 6(5):523–534CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Corner A, Webster R, Teriete C (2015b). Climate visuals: seven principles for visual climate change communication. Climate Outreach, Oxford. Retrieved from
  10. CRED [Center for Research on Environmental Decisions] & ecoAmerica (2014) Connecting on climate: a guide to effective climate change communication. CRED, New York and Washington, D.C. Retrieved from
  11. De Dominicis S, Fornara F, Ganucci Cancellieri U, Twigger-Ross C, Bonaiuto M (2015) We are at risk, and so what? Place attachment, environmental risk perceptions and preventive coping behaviours. J Environ Psychol 43:66–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. DeLuca KM (2009) Greenpeace international media analyst reflects on communicating climate change. Environ Commun 3(2):263–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Devine-Wright P (2011) Enhancing local distinctiveness fosters public acceptance of tidal energy: a UK case study. Energ Policy 39(1):83–93CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Devine-Wright P (2013) Think global, act local? The relevance of place attachments and place identities in a climate changed world. Glob Environ Change 23(1):61–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Devine-Wright P, Price J, Leviston Z (2015) My country or my planet? Exploring the influence of multiple place attachments and ideological beliefs upon climate change attitudes and opinions. Glob Environ Change 30:68–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Doyle J (2007) Picturing the clima(c)tic: greenpeace and the representational politics of climate change communication. Sci Cult 16(2):128–150CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Falk J (2005) Free-choice environmental learning: framing the discussion. Environ Educ Res 11(3):265–280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Farman J (2012) Mobile interface theory: embodied space and locative media. Routledge Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Farnum J, Hall TE, Kruger LE (2005) Sense of place in natural resource recreation and tourism: an evaluation and assessment of research findings. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland, ORCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Feitelson E (1991) Sharing the globe: the role of attachment to place. Glob Environ Change 1(5):397–406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Flora JA, Saphir M, Lappe M, Roser-Renouf C, Maibach EW, Leiserowitz AA (2013) Evaluation of a national high school entertainment education program: the alliance for climate education. Clim Change 127(3–4):419–434Google Scholar
  22. Funk C, Raine L (2015) American politics and science issues. Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from
  23. Goel L, Johnson NA, Junglas I, Ives B (2011) From space to place: Predicting users’ intentions to return to virtual worlds. MIS Q 35(3):749-A5CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gorczyca D (2015) Is it hot out here? Our changing climate at Glacier National Park. Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA. Retrieved from
  25. Guttentag DA (2010) Virtual reality: applications and implications for tourism. Tour Manag 31(5):637–651CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Halpenny EA (2010) Pro-environmental behaviours and park visitors: the effect of place attachment. J Environ Psychol 30(4):409–421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hammitt WE, Kyle GT, Oh C (2009) Comparison of place bonding models in recreation resource management. J Leisure Res 41(1):57–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Harmon D (2006) People, places, and parks: proceedings of the 2005 George Wright Society conference on parks, protected areas, and cultural sites. The George Wright Society, Hancock, MichiganGoogle Scholar
  29. Harrison R (2009) Excavating second life: cyber-archaeologies, heritage and virtual communities. J Mater Cult 14(1):75–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hess JJ, Malilay JN, Parkinson AJ (2008) The health impacts of climate change: the importance of place. Am J Prev Med 35(Theme Issue: Climate Change and the Health of the Public):468–478Google Scholar
  31. Hornsey M, Harris EA, Bain PE, Fielding KS (2016) Meta-analyses of the determinants and outcomes of belief in climate change. Nat Clim Change. 6:622–627CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Koteyko N, Nerlich B, Hellsten I (2015) Climate change communication and the internet: challenges and opportunities for research. Environ Commun 9(2):149–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kyle G, Graefe A, Manning R (2005) Testing the dimensionality of place attachment in recreational settings. Environ Behav 37(2):153–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Leiserowitz A (2006) Climate change risk perception and policy preferences: the role of affect, imagery, and values. Clim Change 77(1/2):45–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Leiserowitz A, Maibach E, Roser-Renouf C (2009) Global warming’s six americas. Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, New Haven, CT. Retrieved from
  36. Lombardi D l, Sinatra G (2012) College students’ perceptions about the plausibility of human-induced climate change. Res Sci Educ 42(2):201–217Google Scholar
  37. Low SM, Altman I (1992) Place attachment: a conceptual inquiry. In: Altman I, Low SM (eds) Place attachment. Plenum Press, New York, pp 1–12Google Scholar
  38. Maibach E, Myers T, Leiserowitz A (2014) Climate scientists need to set the record straight: there is a scientific consensus that human-caused climate change is happening. Earth’s Future 2(5):295–298CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Matthews P (2015) Why are people skeptical about climate change? Some insights from blog comments. Environ Commun 9(2):153–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McCright AM, Dunlap RE (2011) Cool dudes: the denial of climate change among conservative white males in the United States. Glob Environ Change 21(4):1163–1172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. National Park Service (2015) Organic Act of 1916. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Retrieved from
  42. Newell R, Dale A (2015) Meeting the climate change challenge (mc3): the role of the Internet in climate change research dissemination and knowledge mobilization. Environ Commun 9(2):208–227CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. O’Neill S, Nicholson-Cole S (2009) ‘Fear won’t do It’. Promoting positive engagement with climate change through visual and iconic representations. Sci Commun 30(3):355–379CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ojala M (2012) How do children cope with global climate change? Coping strategies, engagement, and wellbeing. J Environ Psychol 32(3):225–233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Plunkett D (2011) On place attachments in virtual worlds. World Leisure J 53(3):168–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Plunkett D (2013) 3D tools examining the impact of media content, emotions, and mental imagery visualization on pre-trip. Doctorate thesis, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZGoogle Scholar
  47. Polson E (2015) A gateway to the global city: mobile place-making practices by expats. N Med Soc 17(4):629–645CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rogers R, Marres N (2000) Landscaping climate change: a mapping technique for understanding science and technology debates on the World Wide Web. Pub Underst Sci 9(2):141–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Sandy MG, Franco ZE (2014) Grounding service-learning in the digital age: exploring a virtual sense of geographic place through online collaborative mapping and mixed media. J High Educ Outreach Engagem 18(4):201–232Google Scholar
  50. Scannell L, Gifford R (2013) Personally relevant climate change: the role of place attachment and local versus global message framing in engagement. Environ Behav 45(1):60–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Schäfer MS (2012) Online communication on climate change and climate politics: a literature review. Wires Clim Change 3(6):527–543CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Schäfer MS, Schlichting I (2014) Media representations of climate change: a meta-analysis of the research field. Environ Commun 8(2):142–160CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Schoenefeld JJ, McCauley MR (2015) Local is not always better: the impact of climate information on values, behavior and policy support. J Environ Stud Sci 1–9. Retrieved from doi:
  54. Schroth O, Angel J, Sheppard S, Dulic A (2014) Visual climate change communication: from iconography to locally framed 3D visualization. Environ Commun 8(4):413–432CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schweizer S, Davis S, Thompson JL (2013) Changing the conversation about climate change: a theoretical framework for place-based climate change engagement. Environ Commun 7(1):42–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Slovic S, Slovic P (2015) Numbers and nerves: information, emotion, and meaning in a world of data. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, ORGoogle Scholar
  57. Smith N, Leiserowitz A (2014) The role of emotion in global warming policy support and opposition. Risk Anal 34(5):937–948CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Tonge J, Ryan MM, Moore SA, Beckley LE (2015) The effect of place attachment on pro-environment behavioral intentions of visitors to coastal natural area tourist destinations. J Travel Res 54(6):730–743CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Turner P, Turner S, Carroll F (2005) The tourist gaze: towards contextualized virtual environments. In: Turner P, Davenport’s E (eds) Spaces, spatiality and technology, Springer Press, Netherlands, pp 281–297Google Scholar
  60. Wiest SL, Raymond L, Clawson RA (2015) Framing, partisan predispositions, and public opinion on climate change. Glob Environ Change 31(187–1):98Google Scholar
  61. Wirth V, Prutsch A, Grothmann T (2014) Communicating climate change adaptation: state of the art and lessons learned from ten OECD countries. GAIA Ecol Perspect Sci Soc 23(1):30–39Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental StudiesGettysburg CollegeGettysburgUSA

Personalised recommendations