Damned If You Do, Dammed If You Don’t: Debates on Dam Removal in the Swedish Media
Dolly Jørgensen, Umeå University
Birgitta Malm Renöfält, Umeå University
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Dam removal is an increasingly common practice. Dams are removed for various reasons, with safety, economics, and ecosystem restoration being the most common. However, dam removals often cause controversy. Riparian land owners and local communities often have a negative view of removal, and their reasons vary. It may be the loss of recreational benefits such as swimming and boating, loss of cultural and historical context tied to the dam, or fear that removal may have a negative effect on aesthetic values. Because controversies are often picked up by local media, and media in itself is an important channel to build support around a cause, the way in which dam removals are reported and discussed in the media is likely to influence the debate. Here, we examine the ways in which proponents and opponents of dam removal frame the services provided by two contrasting ecosystems, i.e., an existing dam and the potential stream without a dam, by performing a media discourse analysis of the reasons given for removal and the reasons presented for the dam to remain in place. Our source material includes Internet-based newspaper articles and their associated public comments in four dam removal controversies in Sweden. Our analysis indicates that public opposition is not based on knowledge deficiency, where more information will lead to better ecological decision-making, as is sometimes argued in dam removal science; it is instead a case of different understandings and valuation of the environment and the functions it provides.
controversies; dam removal; discourse analysis; ecosystem services; newspaper media; Sweden
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