Creating the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument : Discourse Media Place-making and Policy Entrepreneurs

ECU Author/Contributor (non-ECU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Heather Elizabeth McDowell Ward (Creator)
East Carolina University (ECU )
Web Site:
Derek H. Alderman

Abstract: President George W. Bush established the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in 2006. Environmental conservation efforts surrounding the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands began more than 100 years ago with President Theodore Roosevelt yet creation of the Monument by executive order under the authority of the 1906 Antiquities Act occurred seemingly overnight. In a mere decade protection of the islands progressed from Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve in 2000 to Marine National Monument in 2006 to United Nations World Heritage Site in 2010. However geographers have understood for decades that text discourses and cinema create a powerful sense of place and that geographic imagination can spur collective action. This case study offers coastal resource managers and ocean advocates broadly an in-depth examination into a well-orchestrated and successful environmental communication campaign.  This case study applied social critical and mediated discourse analysis techniques to several forms of data--56 media reports 13 email surveys or telephone interviews a collection of photographs in the book Archipelago: Portraits of Life in the World's Most Remote Island Sanctuary and the documentary film Voyage to Kure--to reconstruct the genealogy of place-making by an elite network of scientists writers photographers filmmakers environmental advocates and policymakers. Media reporting identified possible factors influencing the Monument's creation and informed survey questions. Discourse analysis of policymaker surveys suggest the existence of important strategic communication networks between state and federal governments and interested groups inside and outside of government. Established models from the disciplines of environmental communication and political science helped interpret results including John Kingdon's 2003 policy window concept. The effectiveness of Voyage to Kure is explained using Nichols' (2001) elements of documentary voice and Whiteman's (2004) coalition model of filmmaking.  The rise of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to the top of a full 2006 political agenda resulted from a combination of factors and complicated interactions all achieved through orchestrated communication efforts employing evocative media. The collective efforts of an elite network `made place' by envisioning the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a unique fragile ecosystem--distinct geographic space inscribed with particular characteristics and meanings worthy of territorial boundaries and policy protections. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries perhaps exercised the most control because its director and staff understood the power of persuasive media and managed communication between interested parties.  Comparing the media and policy entrepreneur narratives of the Monument's creation validates case study discourse analysis and multidisciplinary research approaches. Monument designation in 2006 can be explained by incorporating communication into Kingdon's policy window model; policy entrepreneurs within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and two White House administrations organized a sophisticated environmental communication campaign. Through a collection of photographs and compelling video artists co-opted and reframed scientific information in the advocacy process revisiting powerful strategies for communicating place and geography within the policy community and to the public. 

Additional Information

Date: 2011
Geography, Communication, Natural resource management
Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (Hawaii)
Environmental protection--Hawaii
Environmental education--Hawaii
Environmental policy--Hawaii
Environmental responsibility--Hawaii
Environmental management--Hawaii

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