The evolution of the super-whale. Complexity and simplicity in environmental communication

Last changed: 05 November 2018

This short discussion paper utilises the case of conflict around whaling to examine two tendencies within environmental communication. Firstly, the strategic employment of homogeneity among different species as part of making a generalised argument. Secondly, the tendency for similar discursive framings to be employed around new issues.

Article: "The evolution of the super-whale. Complexity and simplicity in environmental communication"

Writer: Benedict E. Singleton



Methods and results

This is a discussion paper drawing on literature from anthropology and environmental communication.

The article promotes awareness of the potential positive and negative effects of particular framings of environmental issues. It thus draws attention to when and where biodiversity and homogeneity are selectively employed in communicating environmental issues.

Practical relevance

By drawing attention to particular framing practices it aims to promote more nuanced framings of environmental issues in order to move beyond deadlocked conflicts and encourage substantive societal change.

This article is relevant to conservation professionals of all stripes.


This article discusses the tendency within environmental communication to homogenise diverse situations. Utilising the case of whale conservation it describes how actors on both sides of the whaling debate utilise the 'super-whale' – a homogenised discursive construct. The article argues that there are pragmatic advantages to such framing of environmental situations but also costs. In the case of whale conservation, the super-whale maintains focus on whaling rather than other, arguably more pressing, threats to whale species. More generally, utilising such framing tactics arguably prevent the voicing of new narratives about the global social order.


Page editor: The evolution of the super-whale. Complexity and simplicity in