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Conferences, workshops

The programme of various conferences and events of this year’s Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) Research Week, which takes place from 27 to 31 March, tackles issues related to the communication, perception, and storytelling around climate change. Due to the war in Ukraine and issues in the energy industry, climate change – one of the most pressing issues of our time – and related issues are of increasing public interest. However, this is a complex phenomenon that not only requires a thorough understanding of the processes involved, but also a clear communication strategy to explain them to different groups in society.

There are often many shortcomings in this area, which is why RSU Research Week 2023 will also focus on climate change communication and analysis. On Thursday, 30 March, a separate event on this topic – the conference Fostering Action with Narratives: Communicating about Climate Change and Energy Transition in Politics, Business, Media and Society – will take place as a side event to the social science conference PLACES.

On 30 March, the second day of PLACES was opened at 9:00 by visiting lecturer Peter Berglez from Örebro University in Sweden with the lecture Climate Change as the “Place” where “Everything” Meets, Collides and Implodes in Modern and Late Modern Age. Some Thoughts from a Media Technology Perspective. The professor has written on media coverage of climate change, and this time will focus more broadly on the development, aspirations and place of mankind in the context of climate change.

The aforementioned conference on climate change narratives was preceded by two presentations by conference guests. Professor Natalia Chaban gave a guest lecture To the Question of Resilient Normative Images of the EU at the Age of Uncertainty: Narratives of Climate Change and Environmental Protection.

Her research focuses on the interaction between communication and perception, exploring how political and media discourses resonate with different audiences. Her research interests include the EU and its normative power – how the EU is perceived in non-EU countries, perceptions of EU-Ukraine relations, and the impact of Brexit on the EU’s image. Chaban also studies political communication and perception in the face of different challenges, be it Russia’s war in Ukraine or the EU’s climate policy. The scientist and social activist Dr. Michał Pałasz gave guest lecture Words as Tools for Climate Action: Challenging Business as Usual with Emancipatory More-Than-Human Language. Dr. Pałasz’s research focuses on the search for a better world in a time of climate and ecological crisis, with a particular focus on language as a tool for fostering climate action.

The conference Fostering Action with Narratives: Communicating about Climate Change and Energy Transition in Politics, Business, Media and Society is structured into three sessions, discussing both the narratives that are being constructed on climate and energy during the green transition and the perception of these narratives by different audiences.

One session focuses on the political, economic, legal and cultural contexts in which climate narratives are shaped. The international perspective is well represented at the conference. The author of the conceptual framework of strategic narratives Prof. Ben O'Loughlin and Dr. Pauline Heinrichs will present the role of the climate narrative in shaping Taiwan’s identity as an independent actor in international relations. Next, Dr. Anastasia Denisova will focus on the construction of an unsustainable consumption narrative in the fashion media environment. Dr. Matti Kojo and his co-authors will reveal the arguments used to justify the introduction of the latest nuclear technologies in Finland, while Hugo Faber will explore how market-based reasoning is used in the narratives of two opposing coalitions – nuclear and renewable energy advocates – in Sweden. Finally, Zuzanna Jezierska will focus on the perception of electric scooters as a mobility solution among young people in Poland.

The conference also provides an opportunity to get acquainted with the RSU research team’s findings on the climate change narrative in Latvia: the importance of the climate change issue in the agendas of the Saeima, government, political parties and local governments; the importance of wind energy in political and local government narratives; climate change in Latvian business communication, with a particular focus on the retail sector; the role of the national news agency LETA in promoting the climate change issue in the media agenda; as well as the perception of climate change and related policies in Latvian society.

Discussing the conditions that do and do not foster certain narratives, the conference looked at EU-level factors, legal discourses, obligations and constraints, international and local business management practices, and the element of trust in certain narrators.