Can’t see the power plant for the manatees: Directing view, making unsustainable human accretion invisible to the public eye

A/Prof. Tema Milstein1, Senior Lecturer John Carr2

1University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia,

2University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

 

The prospect of endangered species finding protection in the discharge of fossil fuel-fired powerplants is counter-intuitive, yet these sites have become safeguarded under US and state environmental law as wildlife sanctuaries. This study examines discourses at play at the paradoxical protective site of Tampa Electric Company’s Manatee Viewing Center – the only industry-created viewing center – which has hosted more than 5 million visitors. We interrogate ways broader environmental protection laws that enable powerplant discharge channels to be protected as marine mammal sanctuaries coalesce and complicate discourses mobilized at the Viewing Center. We engage Milstein’s (2009) dialectical ecocultural framework to illustrate ways Center discourses are embedded within wider Western dialectics, such as harmony vs. mastery, connection vs. separation, and ecocentrism vs. anthropocentrism, and examine ways such framings, and overarching entertainment and individual freedom frames, serve to justify and mask destructive status quo practices under the guise of environmental protection and responsibility.

REFERENCES:

Milstein, T. (2009). “Somethin” tells me it’s all happening at the zoo:’ Discourse, power, and conservationism. Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture, 3(1), 24–48.


Biography:

Tema Milstein is an associate professor of Environment & Society at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and convenor of UNSW’s Master of Environmental Management. Her research and teaching focus on the intersections of discourse, culture, and ecological relations. She is a former US Fulbright Scholar and her research interests span the globe, examining ecocultural meaning systems and identity, ecotourism and endangered wildlife, ecological activism, and culture jamming. She also has an interest in ecopedagogy, and is co-editor of Environmental Communication Pedagogy and Practice (Routledge, 2017) and served as her former institution’s University Presidential Teaching Fellow.

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