Discursive Analysis of an Environmental Conflict: Latino/a Saw Palmetto Berry Harvesters and Florida Black Bears

Authors: Christine Mitchell*, Radford University
Topics: Cultural Ecology, Environment, Economic Geography
Keywords: Social Justice, Latino Livelihoods, Content Analysis, Human-bear conflict, Saw palmetto berries.
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Maurepas, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper argues that policy decisions made by the state of Florida that banned the sale of state forest permits for the collection of saw palmetto berries in 2015 were influenced by negative environmental discourses and perceptions surrounding the harvest, as well as negative media reporting of Latino/as harvesters. These policies were further influenced by a discourse that asserted that increased human and black bear conflicts were the result of the overharvesting of berries, resulting in black bears entering suburbs to forage for alternative food sources. Content analysis of newspaper coverage of berry harvesters reveals that negative views of berry harvesters have been generated public land representatives when discussing the arrests of harvesters for trespassing at state parks. Land-cover and land-use analyses suggests little to no correlation between the berry harvest and the increase in bear-human conflicts in suburbs but does suggest that increased conversion of natural bear habitat into residential spaces likely contributes to this conflict. The harvest ban in 2015 resulted in criminalizing access to an abundant natural resource by Latino/a harvesters. By limiting an important seasonal source of income the ban contributed to increased social injustices faced by this group. Simultaneously, the discourse used by environmentalists in public meetings and in the press to stop the 2015 bear hunt cast harvesters as a source of human-bear conflict, without evidence that the harvest contributes to this conflict.

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