Date of Award:

8-2019

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

English

Advisor/Chair:

Jared Colton

Co-Advisor/Chair:

Rebecca Walton

Third Advisor:

Avery Edenfield

Abstract

What persuades people one way or another to accept or deny climate change? More importantly, what persuades people to act on, ignore, or even be defiant of climate change? We would like to think that people are motivated when they hear the science explained clearly and when they are presented with a clear understanding of how their actions have a lasting impact. Yet the science on climate change has been made clear for some time, and doubt in climate change science is rampant (at least in the United States).

This dissertation seeks to answer these questions and develop a new methodology for persuading people to change their behaviors to be more environmentally friendly. I discuss a rhetorical theory called new materialism (a branch of posthumanism) that looks at the impact that nonhuman factors have on an audience’s decision-making. I apply that theory to the study of technical communication in three case studies of rural communities in Utah, Morocco, and Ohio, learning from local knowledges and seeking to understand what persuades these audiences’ in a more complex way than we may have previously thought. I conclude by suggesting what approaches communicators might take with these communities in the future toward engaging them in making the behavior changes that are necessary to mitigate the human contribution to climate change.

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