Environmental Action in the Anthropocene: The Power of Narrative Networks

Mrill Ingram, Helen Ingram, Raul Lejano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this article we present a ‘narrative network' approach, which by virtue of its engagement with the non-human and with collaborative decision-making, is especially well suited to support social scientists in better comprehending the diverse possibilities for environmental governance in the Anthropocene. The most highly salient Anthropocene narrative is focused on physical phenomena, and neglects the importance and dynamism of the social landscape. Despite the dire warnings conveyed by this narrative dominated by the physical sciences, the solutions it recommends rely on status quo institutional arrangements. In this article, we explain and illustrate how the narrative-network analysis can identify and describe successful political action by largely informal networks that bridge geographic, economic, cultural, and political differences and embrace participatory environmental governance. We illustrate the power of narrative-network analysis to reveal an environmental network in the case of the Sonora Desert at the US–Mexican border. Such networks can be the vanguard of discourse and policy change, raising neglected issues and undertaking collaborative action that foreshadows later formalization, and enlist the participation of actors ordinarily far outside the policy-making process. We add to our previous work on narratives by explaining how the narrative-network analysis can be useful to discursive scholarship in environmental planning and policy. We harness analytical methods associated with narratology and social psychology to tap into the communicative dimension of the discourse dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)492-503
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Environmental Policy and Planning
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 3 2019


  • Anthropocene
  • Narratives
  • U.S.–Mexico border
  • collaborative governance
  • social networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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