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Resistance to change: A case study on framing and policy change of a controversial nature area

Renske van der Maten, Environmental Policy Group, Wageningen University and Research Centre
Eira C Carballo-Cárdenas, Environmental Policy Group, Wageningen University and Research Centre
Jan Van Tatenhove, Centre for Blue Governance, Aalborg University


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Nature policies can be a major source of long-term debates, in which actors involved define problems differently and are unable to formulate (co-constructed) solutions. Especially issues about the well-being of animals raise heated debate among stakeholders. Though debates over nature policies often span longer periods, they are most likely dealt with on the short term. Policy makers will attempt to solve acute issues, which requires minimal political effort. However, these short-term solutions do not necessarily solve the issue as a whole. This paper analyzes conflicting frames about nature in the Dutch Oostervaardersplassen, and presents an analysis of how the different issues are debated, and framed, over a period of 23 years. Gaining in-depth insight into these frames shows linkages between media attention to issues and policy change. This research shows how diverse and unstable the debate has been over 23 years, by using Punctuated Equilibrium Theory to understand the policy process, and by analyzing the evolution of frames in the media with an Evolutionary Factor Analysis. With the combination of both Punctuated Equilibrium Theory and the Evolutionary Factor Analysis, we can relate issue framing to policy change. This shows that policy is adapted, following rising attention. However, at first the attempts for adaptation by policy makers will be minor, as stability is favored over change, until a certain threshold whereafter policy is changed radically. The article will provide more insight for stakeholders, scientists, and policy makers into the complexity of these kinds of wicked problems.

Key words

Evolutionary factor analysis; framing; media attention; nature policy; Punctuated Equilibrium Theory

Copyright © 2022 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087