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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Ranunculus glacialis vs Reindeer – Narratives about Naturepark Malla

Environmental Policy
Climate Change
Niina Meriläinen
Tampere University
Niina Meriläinen
Tampere University
Heta-Elena Heiskanen
Tampere University

Legislation processes are based on narratives that are formed via selective framing. Legislation is written based on the gatekeeper(s) narratives. We study this phenomenon by analyzing various narratives found in the media, to understand how narratives are used to create an understanding on a wider issue and subsequently how can these narratives function as basis in the legislative processes.

Malla Nature Park in Lapland Finland is an area regulated by several laws. These laws have been enacted in different times. There is unfortunate incoherence: lower regulation bans reindeer herding in the Malla, but human rights friendly interpretation would result that on the basis of constitution, the Sami people, indigenous people, should have unlimited right to practice their cultural rights in the Sami Homeland area, including herding. This unclear regulative situation has created and maintained a long-term conflict between scientists, local Sami people, authorities and environmentalists. There has been a recognition by the civil servants that there is a need for legal reform in order to ensure coherence of the legislation.

One perspective to start creating wider understanding on the different laws and realities regarding Malla, is to analyze various narratives found of Malla in the media texts. The narrative analysis provides an understanding how narratives are formulated via framing and how various narratives, may influence the legislative processes. The qualitative narrative analysis focuses on 20 news articles from the Finnish media in the autumn 2016. Seven key narratives by various actors were found. These actors aim to be gatekeepers in the legislative processes. Narratives included various selective causal relations realities and dynamic interrelatedness between various actors, events and issues. All narratives named threats to Malla with naming-and-shaming-framing, framed those responsible of the situations in Malla and provided recommendations how to solve the problems in Malla.

The paper aims to provide understanding of these seven narratives related to Malla because in the legislative preparation phase of the legal reform, the civil servants should be informed to prepare consultation process. The paper provides needed information of the resent narratives by central actors that can directly influence the outcomes of the consultation process, which in turn has a direct influence on the final law(s). It is crucial that the civil servants identify the dominating narratives by the gatekeepers, but are also capable of identifying the gated non-gatekeeper actors and their narratives that have not been presented in the medias. The paper discusses therefore also about the “invisible” gated actors, for example children, Sami youth and future generations, that have so far not participated or paid attention to in the public discussions in the media, but who are the ones living and practicing their traditional culture in the Malla area.

The paper concludes that narratives play a central role in the legislative processes. There is a need to identify narratives by various actors from various issue arenas, give recommendations how these narratives could be used in the legislative processes aiming to make the legislation and practices regarding Malla more sustainable long-term.
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