Structures and Mechanisms of Communication: 'Debates' Around the National Natural Parks
Currently, different forms of publicising are implemented as a democratic process: public debate, consultation, dialogue, reconciliation with citizens, referendum, etc. Publicising refers to visibility development, through media coverage and debate development. In this context, citizens become, at first glance, actors in the decision-making process and participate in democratic life. But these processes do not come close to producing direct debate between residents and elected representatives, for example, or a direct democracy. Questioning the notion of “participation” shows it may also refer to a simple formulation of public expressions, or the gradual construction of public issues. Thus, democratic devices appear to be more integrated into political communication strategies of opinion management and the anticipation of conflicts than into democratic participation processes. While many debates are initiated on town planning issues, local authorities face difficulties in establishing scientific debates. This was the case with the debate on nanotechnology, for instance. Science-related debates topics seem to complicate the organisation of their participation mechanisms. National Parks are land settlements established by the State, in order to protect the environment. These developments are beneficial to nature but, even so, they are disputed. All National Park projects have caused conflict and have led to much debate. Indeed, the establishment of this protected area is synonymous with high stress for local stakeholders, such as the prohibition of hunting and fishing, habitat limitation and their renovation, the restriction of agricultural areas and prohibition of assembly. Thus, the debates focus on the delineation of the park because this indicates the geographical constraints of the “land users”. Land uses will be affected by these constraints. Therefore national stakeholders who support for the creation of the park are opposed to locals, who will suffer the constraints. But this apparent dichotomy actually reveals more complex issues. This thesis deals with communication on environmental issues. It focuses on “debate” raised by the project over the creation of national parks. This theme makes it possible to understand the communication on environmental issues within the Public Sphere (Miège, 2010). It also links with the territory and all the stakeholders involved in this controversial project, namely the politicians, scientists, residents, associations and professionals. Our research attempts to question communication on environmental issues, which translates into the “localisation” of the public sphere. The underlying assumption is that the regionalisation of environmental issues makes the emergence of a local part public sphere. This problem is about communication strategies on local and national environmental issues and shows they are indicative of the tensions between the two scales. In other words, communication strategies reflect the power relations between stakeholders. These strategies are based on the ratio of players to the territories.