The language dance around plastic bags
DisciplineValtio-oppiPolitical ScienceKansainvälinen kehitystyö (maisteriohjelma)Master's Degree Programme in Development and International Cooperation
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With its qualities of durability and versatility (and economic advantages), plastic is a popular choice for disposable product production. Up until recently, little thought has been given to the expensive implications of the entire life cycle of plastic products and their waste. In the United States much public attention, attributed to the discovery of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the North Pacific Gyre, has acquainted the public with dialogue on the perils of plastic waste and its threats to sustainable development. Plastic compounds degrade slowly into small pieces polluting waters, harming oceanic ecosystems and traveling up the food chain to human consumption. Global discourse has converged on these themes when positing solutions to the un-sustainability of plastic bags. Different stakeholders all have a hand to play and a language dance is evident as two clear opposing sides aim to define and shape the discourse area. Who can shape the discourse on plastic bags will determine how the matter is discussed and what type of policy solutions are proposed. Firstly, the stakeholders contributing to the plastic bag discourse were identified and then the question of how language is used to shape the discourse on plastic bags by different actors was examined. This paper focuses its examination on the political discourse of plastic bags in the United States, the State of California and the municipalities of San Francisco and Oakland, to determine how language is used to shape the discourse. This same language analysis is applied to all the stakeholders who voice their position regarding plastic bag policies. These voices are analyzed in light of the discourse analysis asserted through the work of Fairclough. Discursive methods used by the varying stakeholders were identified in attempts to address the role of language in shaping discourse. Two prominent discourses promoted by the government(s) and by the plastic bag industry were distinguished and both were found to use similar language in promotion of their discourse. Subsequently, the paper will raise broader questions about the role of language in shaping public policy. ...
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