Panel 15 | Framing (and) Nature

CADAAD2022 | 06-08/07/2022 | Bergamo, Italy

212 | Arran Stibbe

An Ecolinguistic Approach to Ethical Leadership

Many commentators have suggested that Covid provides an opportunity to rethink the priorities of society and build back a more ethical and sustainable civilisation in its wake. This will require ethical leadership at all levels, from community leaders to NGO leaders, corporate leaders and political leaders. The question that this paper explores is: what can ecolinguistics offer to both the theory of ethical leadership and its practical application to leadership training? The paper starts by reviewing theories of ethical leadership, from competence-based approaches to communicative ones (e.g., Avela 2017, Cohen and Qualters 2007, Brown et al 2005), showing which aspects of ethical leadership theory lie within the area that ecolinguistics can be applied to. The paper presents a theory of ethical leadership based on ecolinguistic principles (Stibbe 2021a and b, Fill 2019). This includes the idea that ethical leaders a) use critical discourse analysis to reveal underlying stories behind their own and others’ discourses, b) assesses discourses according to an ecological philosophy (ecosophy), c) actively resist destructive discourses that oppose their ecosophy, and d) promote beneficial ones that align with their through their own rhetorical power (Alexander 2009, p..75-85, shows how Vandana Shiva achieves this). The paper produces a ‘grammar of ethical leadership’ through critical discourse analysis of a corpus of speakers known for their work on social justice and sustainability. The corpus includes speeches from leaders around the world including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Arundhati Roy, Cecile Pineda, Greta Thunberg, Jane Goodall, Mariana Mazzucato, Thích Nhất Hạnh, Vandana Shiva and Wangari Maathai. The ‘grammar’ is a collection of linguistic and rhetorical features including framing, antimetabole, metaphor, metanoia, pronoun use, procatalepsis, erasure, narrative, transitivity, and modality that are used by the leaders to resist destructive discourses and promote beneficial ones, together with examples of how they are used. An example is the cluster of linguistic features that these speakers use to convey ecological identities, i.e., to instantiate human membership of in-groups that include other species within a greater community of life. Finally, the paper will discuss how ecolinguistics and the specific examples from the ‘grammar’ can be used in leadership education to help prepare a generation of leaders who are critically aware of damaging ideologies in discourse, capable of resisting these ideologies, and capable of using language effectively to convey positive new stories to live by.


Alexander, R., 2009. Framing discourse on the environment: a critical discourse approach. New York: Routledge.

Avella, J.R., 2017. The dilemma of ethical leadership. Journal of Leadership Studies, 11 (2), 42–44.

Brown, M.E., Treviño, L.K., and Harrison, D.A., 2005. Ethical leadership: A social learning perspective for construct development and testing. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 97 (2), 117–134.

Cohen, P. and Qualters, D.M., 2007. Ethical leadership: the AIR model empowers moral agency. Journal of Human Values, 13 (2), 107–117.

Fill, A. and Penz, H., eds., 2018. The Routledge Handbook of Ecolinguistics. 1 edition. London: Routledge.

Stibbe, A., 2021a. Ecolinguistics as a transdisciplinary movement and a way of life. In: A. Burkette and T. Warhol, eds. Crossing Borders, Making Connections: Interdisciplinarity in Linguistics. Boston: De Gruyter Mouton.

Stibbe, A., 2021b. Ecolinguistics: language, ecology and the stories we live by, 2nd Edition. London: Routledge.

282 | Martin Reisigl

Growth as its opposite. Deconstructing a pervasive capitalist metaphor and frame

The pervasive metaphor of growth circulates fairly unquestioned in all sorts of economic, political and general public discourses. It goes presupposed even in talk of degrowth and postgrowth. This metaphorical frame functions as a basic discursive and ideological pillar of extractivist capitalism. In my paper, I want to analyse how the metaphor is discursively realised in the Austrian media discourse. I will look at the Austrian quality press. Data feeds from media discourse about the economic challenges during Covid 19 pandemic. Careful analytical consideration will be given to how the frame of growth appears as a crucial metaphorical and argumentative element of the capitalist rhetoric of increase and how the positive high-value word functions as a naturalising legitimization of capitalist destruction of nature. It is shown how the biological growth frame hides the destruction of nature, landscape, biodiversity, living spaces, and alternative forms of economy behind a seemingly natural process of increase. From the perspective of Critical Discourse Studies, I will expose that most of the developments and actions relating to the euphemistic heading of growth are more or less the opposite of biological growth, and that the use of this metaphor serves to overlook the truth of costs. The blind spots of the growth metaphor will be pointed out and alternatives will be put into perspective. Thus, the metaphor of growth will be deconstructed. I will argue that in order to cope with the climate crisis, it is necessary to definitively abandon the destructive capitalist logic and rhetoric of increase that is naturalized with the mendacious metaphor of growth.

The main goal of my case study is to contribute to raising ecological awareness, which is a central prerequisite for the transformation towards a more sustainable society. My discourse-historical critique includes the promotion of sufficiency-oriented alternatives, not simply by negation, but by stressing argumentation patterns of sufficiency such as “Enough is enough!”, “Quality before quantity!” and “Less is more!”. Hence, the capitalist rhetoric of increase will be countered by the rhetoric of sustainability – in the sense of sufficiency, efficiency and consistency.

My theoretical and methodological stance is framed by the Discourse-Historical Approach, which combines Critical Discourse Studies, Ecolinguistics and Rosa’s Resonance Theory. My methodological focus is on linking frame and metaphor analysis with content-based argumentation analysis.

Fill, Alwin F./Penz, Hermine (2018): Ecolinguistics in the 21st Century. In: Fill, Alwin F./Penz, Hermine (Hg.): The routledge handbook of ecolinguistics. (= Routledge handbooks in linguistics). London/New York: Routledge, S. 437–443.

Jackson, Tim (2021): Post Growth. Life after Capitalism. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Lakoff, George & Mark Johnson. 1980. Metaphors we live by. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press.

Pielenz, Manfred (1993): Argumentation und Metapher. Tübingen: Narr.

Rosa, Hartmut (2016): Beschleunigung. Die Veränderung der Zeitstrukturen in der Moderne: Suhrkamp.

Rosa, Hartmut (2021): Unverfügbarkeit. Berlin: Suhrkamp.

Stibbe, Arran (2015): Ecolinguistics. London & New York: Routledge.

301 | Gian Marco Farese

An analysis of intralinguistic variation in environmental discourse: the UK vs. Australia

Sensitivity to environmental issues and the urgency to take action against any possible causes of climate change can vary considerably across nations and communities of people. Amongst the various factors determining such variation, the geography and morphology of a country play a major role; they give discursive salience to those environmental issues that are felt to be more urgent in different countries situated in different geographical areas (Dalby 1992; Dell’Agnese 2021). While, for instance, coal, carbon and the ozone hole may be framed in discourse in certain areas, in other areas discourse may revolve around deforestation, draughts or the water level increase. In this respect, it is interesting to analyse to what extent the geographical factor influences environmental discourse and what type of linguistic variation it can bring about.

This paper presents a contrastive analysis between the environmental discourses of the UK and Australia. A comparison between these two countries and communities of speakers is particularly suitable for the research questions that this paper seeks to answer; in spite of the many common features shared by these two countries (e.g., they are both Anglophone and both islands, and share many common cultural elements), their citizens live in very different geographical areas. Thus, it can be reasonably expected that they feel and speak quite differently about different environmental issues. In line with previous contrastive studies on English environmental discourse (Doulton and Brown 2009; Gunster et al. 2018; Jessup 2010), the present analysis seeks to clarify not only whether or not there is intralinguistic variation emerging from the contrast between these two varieties of English, but also the extent to which this is determined by the geographical factor. In particular, the contrast focuses on three levels of analysis: (i) agentivity; (ii) moral evaluation (i.e., why it matters); (iii) the language of environmental culture (i.e. the words used to sensitize citizens and to promote initiatives for the environmental cause).

The body of data includes linguistic materials taken from newspaper articles, online blogs, the social media and a series of political speeches. Special attention will be given to emerging differences in the lexicon and to the keywords characterising discourse respectively in British and Australian English.


Dalby, S. (1992). Ecopolitical discourse: ‘environmental security’ and political geography. Progress in Human Geography 16(4), 503-522.

Dell’Agnese, E. (2021). Ecocritical Geopolitics. Popular Culture and Environmental Discourse. London: Routledge.

Doulton, H., and Brown, K. (2009). Ten years to prevent catastrophe?: Discourses of climate change and international development in the UK press. Global Environmental Change 19(2), 191-202.

Gunster, S., et al. (2018). Climate Hypocrisies: A Comparative Study of News Discourse. Environmental Communication 12(6), 773-793.

Jessup, B (2010). Plural and hybrid environmental values: a discourse analysis of the wind energy conflict in Australia and the United Kingdom. Environmental Politics 19(1), 21-44.

328 | Chiara Degano

Reframing nuclear and gas as clean energies in EU discourse

The paper addresses the framing of the green energy transition in European political discourse, with special regard for energies like nuclear and gas, as attempts are made of recasting them as clean energy. An analysis is carried out of documents produced by European Union institutions, and their interlocutors, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, across a range of digital text genres. The analysis focuses on the arguments used in support or against the inclusion of nuclear and gas in the taxonomy of green energies, asking how frames of danger traditionally attached to nuclear energy are engaged and potentially subverted. Attention is given, in particular, to the repertoire of topoi used in the contemporary debate, using an approach that brings together a content-based perspective on topoi (cf. among others Reisigl and Wodak 2001), seen as depending on the configuration of social domains, disciplines, theories etc. (Reisigl 2014, 77), and the more formalized notion of arguments schemes (Walton et al 2008, van Eemeren 2010). At the same time, identifying and reconstructing recurrent topoi will make it possible to shed light on how agreement with the intended audience is discursively pursued. This entails placing emphasis not only on the formalized aspects of schemes, but also on their discursive realizations, which can in turn reveal how much space of dialogue is envisaged with those holding alternative views.


Reisigl, Martin. 2014. 'Argumentation Analysis and the Discourse-Historical Approach. A Methodological Framework.' In Contemporary Critical Discourse Studies, edited by Christopher Hart and Piotr Cap, 67-96. London: Bloomsbury.

Reisigl, Martin, and Ruth Wodak. 2001. Discourse and Discrimination: Rhetorics of Racism and Antisemitism. London: Routledge.

van Eemeren, Frans H., ed. 2010. Strategic Maneuvering in Argumentative Discourse: Extending the Pragma-Dialectical Theory of Argumentation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Walton, Douglas, Christian Reed, and Fabrizio Macagno. 2008. Argumentation schemes. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.