Visual representations remain under-studied in environmental discourse analysis. Tor A. Benjaminsen provides three examples of images of landscape degradation, which are responsible for spawning degradation myths: cracked soil demonstrating desertification in the West African Sahel, fence-line contrasts showing degradation of communal rangelands in South Africa, and colour maps as evidence of overstocking in Sámi reindeer husbandry in Norway.
In all three cases, degradation images are used to uphold a myth about pastoral mismanagement of the environment. The cases also reveal the use of images as powerful tools to ‘problematise’ pastoralism, whereas technical measures, such as implementing carrying capacities, are presented as solutions, despite scientific evidence questioning the idea of general overstocking.
In addition, we see that connotative meanings of images have been pivotal in all the cases producing the myths on which policymakers have tended to base their decisions.
Read the article in Landscape Research:
Depicting decline: images and myths in environmental discourse analysis (open access).