Climate and narrative: Environmental knowledge in everyday life

Raul P. Lejano, Joana Tavares-Reager, Fikret Berkes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The literature on traditional ecological knowledge has established the importance of community narratives for storing, communicating, and activating complex environmental information. In our work, we begin to investigate how investigating narrative forms of knowing is useful to understanding urbanized, cosmopolitan societies as well. We use narrative analysis to examine how " moderns" make sense of complex issues by crafting coherent narratives about them. These narratives richly integrate multiple ways of knowing - including scientific, normative, and cultural dimensions. By comparison, discourse emerging from institutions such as the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) displays different narrative properties and is less conducive to narration by others outside the organization. While researchers have investigated the salience of climate change communication in the past, we have yet, till now, to systematically utilize narratological approaches. To spur people to action, issues like climate change need to be integrated into the everyday narratives that people tell about themselves and their world. Talk of climate, and of weather, needs to become more commonplace and not isolated from other issues, such as jobs and recession, that occupy people's everyday lives. The main point of the article is not to critique any organization's mode of discourse but, rather, to point out the crucial insights we gain through the use of narrative analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-70
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • Climate change
  • Narrative
  • Traditional ecological knowledge
  • Ways of knowing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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