Thomas Friedrich

Published On


Page Range

pp. 77-120

Print Length

43 pages

Communication and Knowledge Transfer on Climate Change in the Philippines

  • Thomas Friedrich (author)
Separately from its physical reality, climate change has become a travelling idea (Hulme 2009). Through numerous policies, laws and regulations, the global discourse on climate change is affecting many people, irrespective of how strongly they experience the consequences of a changing climate. The idea travels via a long chain of communication and translation from the global to the local level. Along the way, however, knowledge becomes detached from its meaning (Jasanoff 2010). This chapter uses the case of the Philippine island of Palawan to show how an idea can be re-integrated into a meaningful context during multiple translations from its source to its destination in local ontologies. The chapter demonstrates that the local reception of climate change discourse is influenced by pre-existing, shared systems of knowledge and meaning that are reproduced and maintained by circular rather than unidirectional, top-down communication. Irrespective of scientific accuracy, climate change thus becomes a coherent, plausible, and tangible concept regarding what people already know, believe and experience. Based on empirical data that has been collected in multi-method fieldwork in Palawan, this chapter shows that sense-making is a multi-layered process, in which discourses and narratives, cultural models of human-environment relationships, interpersonal communications, personal experiences, and other sources of information (including the media) play a decisive role in how climate change is eventually comprehended and communicated. Using the ethnographic example of a lay theatre performance, the chapter paradigmatically demonstrates how the reproduction and dissemination of the local notion of climate change takes place. It concludes by offering recommendations for climate communicators drawn from the case study.


Thomas Friedrich