University of East Anglia (UEA) 10/2008 – 12/2012
PhD in Political Science (UEA Arts and Humanities funded)
In my thesis I investigate our relationship with nature in the context of participatory democracy. In our political system people represent people, whether in parliament or through interest groups in the public sphere but the environment cannot represent itself – people represent the interests of the environment. The theoretical grounds for this form of representation were the subject of my thesis for which I interviewed a number of local, national and European environmental NGOs, analysing their organisational and communication structures on climate change issues such as water scarcity, deforestation and emission reductions.
In addition, the emergence of the internet and social media has provided a whole new set of tools to represent the voice of the environment through peoples’ support. Through my empirical work I have gained some insights into the professionalisation of environmental groups in the field of digital and social media on the one hand as well as the diversity of supporters and their preferred ways participation and communication on the other. Supporters are not all the same: Different people prefer different types, amounts and frequencies of communication.
My thesis: “Speak to me only with thine ayes? The representativeness of professional advocacy groups” is a qualitative analysis of interviews conducted with local, German and British as well as EU-level environmental NGOs and EU Commission officials on climate change policies. Core questions are: Whom do (environmental) NGOs represent? Can NGOs claim to represent nature? How can nature be given a voice in politics? The study develops a conceptual framework and argument for the representativeness of environmental NGOs.