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Chapter 2 Changing Paradigms, Shifting Societal Discourses, and Organizational Responses

Abstract This chapter begins with a description of the transformational changes undertaken at the Portland Trail Blazers' basketball arena campus when messages within their external environment changed to highlight environmental sustainability. Two paradigms generally used to describe the belief systems of people and people groups regarding our relationship with the natural environment are described: the dominant social paradigm and the new ecological paradigm. The societal shift toward the growing importance of the sustainable development Discourse within businesses, cities, and universities is described. Paradigms are differentiated from Discourses and ten environment-related Discourses are identified (i.e., the industrialism Discourse, survivalism, the Promethean response, administrative rationalism, democratic pragmatism, economic rationalism, green politics, green consciousness, ecological modernization, and sustainability). Criticisms of the ecological modernism and sustainability Discourses are reviewed. Communication's role in reinforcing and challenging paradigms is discussed. The chapter ends by discussing forces which influence how environmentally related issues are framed, contested, and reframed. In addition to paradigms, Discourses, and ideology, theories or theoretical concepts highlighted include discursive closure, critical theory and the neo-Marxian perspective on sustainable development, framing, schemata of interpretation, systematically distorted communication, and social judgment theory. Throughout the chapter, interview data gathered from small businesses, an activist organization (the Natural Resources Defense Council), a nongovernmental organization, South Dakota's state government, multiple cities (e.g., the City and County of Denver), two sports organizations (the Portland Trail Blazers, Aspen Skiing Company), a university, and two multinational organizations (Tyson Foods, Sam's Club) is integrated.

Lewis and Clark and the Natural Environment When Lewis and Clark set out on their journey, the dominant view of the human–environment interface in America was a tradition of repugnance. Settlers loathed the wilderness and/or saw it as something to be exploited (Cox 2013). Shortly after their return, an idea started growing about America's Manifest Destiny. In the July–August 1845 issue of the United States Magazine and Democratic Review, an anonymous author proclaimed “our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by

Providence for the free development of our multiplying millions.” There were at least three basic themes to Manifest Destiny: the American people and their institutions had special virtues; it was their mission to remake the West into an agrarian America; and the nation had an irresistible destiny to accomplish this duty. Westward expansion and efforts to tame the wilderness were rooted in our collective belief in Manifest Destiny. However, within 25 years after Lewis and Clark returned, voices rose in art, in literature, and on the lecture circuit challenging the view of nature as alien or exploitable. Almost 80 years after their return, America had its first national park—Yosemite National Park. This example illustrates how societal discourses and worldviews change over time—the focus of this chapter.

 
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