Visualizing Climate Change Through Photography: Outdoor Educators Examine Climate Change Within Their Personal Contexts

  • Author / Creator
    Munro, Tai
  • Climate change is one of the most serious threats to Earth and its inhabitants (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2007). There are attempts to engage individuals and groups in taking action to reduce climate change in both communication and education. Images are an increasingly significant part of these attempts. Research regarding the use of images indicates that they are capable of affecting a viewer’s thoughts about climate change (Leiserowitz, 2006). However, they have met with limited success in terms of encouraging relevant responses to climate change. Hence, there are calls to increase the association between climate change and the personal contexts of viewers. The study draws on a theoretical framework based on the research in education and visual communication of climate change; and a conceptual framework of ecological thinking. The current study utilized autodriven photo-elicitation to explore how outdoor educators visualized their thinking about climate change. Further, it examined how these photographic images relate to those that are found within the variety of communications about climate change. Autodriven photo-elicitation modifies traditional interview formats by using photographs to help guide the discussion (Harper, 2002; Schwartz, 1989). Further, the approach engages participants in generating the topics to photograph and taking the photographs. Analysis was carried out using a framework based on Peirce’s understanding of semiotics. The results indicated that the outdoor educators were skeptical regarding their ability to determine that a particular event or scene was related to climate change. At the same time, they showed conviction in relating societal aspects, primarily consumption and reduced connection with nature, to climate change. The participants even expressed concern regarding their own levels of consumption with regards to participating in outdoor activities themselves. The participants’ photographs exhibited differences when compared to the main approaches to climate change photography that have been used within education and communication about climate change indicating the importance of directing photographs towards the personal contexts of specific groups of people. The project also demonstrated the pedagogical potential of autodriven photo-elicitation for engaging individuals and groups with thinking about climate change. Future research and pedagogical opportunities are also discussed.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2012
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Reichwein, PearlAnn (Physical Education and Recreation)
    • Shapiro, Bonnie (Education, University of Calgary)
    • Shultz, Lynette (Educational Policy Studies)
    • Wallin, Jason (Secondary Education)