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A Rhetorical Analysis of National Park Service and Community Leader Discourses about Night Skies at Acadia National Park

Monika M. Derrien, Patricia A. Stokowski, Robert E. Manning


Dark night skies are becoming increasingly scarce

as human populations increase and development continues to sprawl. Light

pollution, and its ecological, social, and cultural impacts are transboundary,

multi-jurisdictional issues that require planning and management involving

multiple actors on multiple scales. This study examines management of dark

night skies at Acadia National Park, where the park and community have worked

to keep the night skies relatively dark. Park service managers and community

leaders were interviewed, and qualitative methods were used to better understand

how each group discursively made the case for the meaning and management

of dark night skies at Acadia. In addition to analyzing the explicit content of

interviews, enthymemes—arguments with implicit claims—were also evaluated.

The rhetorical analysis also focused on the stylistic techniques that supported

enthymematic claims; these included establishing legitimacy and credibility,

positioning leaders relative to others, and ambiguity. This study showed that

NPS arguments tended to frame the role of the community as “buying in†to

NPS's efforts to uphold its new night sky-inclusive management policies, while

community leaders argued that the night sky was an economic asset, discursively

retaining their autonomous interests. Rhetorical discourses functioned to forge

the semblance of agreement and the appearance of a “win-win†situation for

both groups, even though the underlying premises of their arguments were often

conflictual, relating to political or ideological understandings of the resource 

and the goals of its management. Other research has found that contested

meanings can lead to substantial conflict over resource management, but in this 

case, contested meanings seemed to represent a case of adjustment and shared



Night skies; parks; protected areas; management; discourse; rhetoric; Acadia National Park; community

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