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Framing and reframing the emerging “planetary crisis”: a plea to avoid, and for increasing critique of, neoenvironmental determinism

Stephen McGrail (PhD candidate at the University of Technology, Sydney, Sydney, Australia.)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 9 August 2013




The purpose of this paper is to take up and contribute to understanding an important emerging theme in recent literature on global environmental change and socio‐ecological issues (including Slaughter's The Biggest Wake‐up Call in History): “positive reframing”. The paper also aims to deepen consideration of the potential for “overshoot and collapse” futures and related concerns by foresight practitioners.


The paper is based on, and presents, a thematic analytical literature review.


In total, four underlying drivers of increased reframing and four central themes in positive reframes are identified; mental “frames” informing and limiting foresight work need to be openly communicated and reflected on – such practitioner reflexivity is often missing in foresight work, such as in The Biggest Wake‐up Call in History by Richard Slaughter.

Practical implications

The paper includes discussion of the implications for futures practice, including the role of mental frames and reframing. The author suggests futures practitioners can play important new roles in challenging the recent re‐emergence of influential forms of environmental determinism and foresight practitioners need to be more wary of the potential for “narrative bias”.

Social implications

Futures assessment is increasingly needed to guide policy and action in improving human‐environment relations. Barriers and opportunities to fulfilling this societal need must be understood.


The paper helps to deepen the consideration of “re‐framing” and environmental limits by foresight practitioners and theorists. In doing so, the paper also brings in new concepts from other fields (such as cognitive psychology and Science and Technology Studies) into the foresight/futures field.



McGrail, S. (2013), "Framing and reframing the emerging “planetary crisis”: a plea to avoid, and for increasing critique of, neoenvironmental determinism", On the Horizon, Vol. 21 No. 3, pp. 230-246.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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