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A Qualitative Analysis of Pollinators News Coverage in Francophone Belgium (Contract number: CT-EX2021D427290-101)

Aymeric Luneau

The following report is based on the analysis with Prospéro of a corpus of texts focusing on pollinators decline. The corpus is made of 2 800 texts published between 2010 and 2021. Texts come from francophone Belgian newspapers and magazines, press releases and parliamentary questions. The purpose of the analysis is to understand the narratives that have been used to talk about pollinators decline in Belgian public spheres and their evolutions over the last decade. Our descriptive analysis shows that the problem of wild pollinator decline has acquired an increasing attention in Belgian press. At the beginning, Francophone press was mostly focused on honey bees, but then they have paid more attention to problems in relation with wild bees and other pollinators. The evolution is correlated with policies which federal and regional policy-makers set up in order to reduce the lack of knowledge about the state of wild pollinators in Belgium and to foster their conservation. Those actions also are in line with global worries about Biodiversity crisis and the decline of pollinators around the world. However, a hierarchy between pollinators is still existing. If species similar to honeybees, such as wild and solitary bees or bumblebees, have gained some recognition, other pollinating insects remain invisible. The descriptive analysis of the corpus demonstrates that texts put pollinators at the junction of multiple threats, whether they are connected to biological pests, alien species, climate change, the use of chemical inputs in agriculture or habitat loss. This result meets what other authors already observed regarding bees (Chateauraynaud et Debaz, 2017 ; Debaz, 2012). This list of threats has to be connected with the different actors concerned with pollinators decline who have contributed to define the problem according to their experiences and interests. This abundance of threat raise the question of impacts that such an inventory could have on the understanding of general public but also decision-makers about policy priorities. Otherwise, who is to believe? Is it agrochemical firms which claim that there is no problem (Bayer, 2019, p. 26; La Dernière Heure, 2017a)? Or is it environmentalist organisations pointed out pesticides? Finally, it appears from the descriptive analysis that pollinators decline was covered by Belgian press along two dimensions. The first dimension distinguishes texts focused specifically on honey bees from texts concerned with biodiversity loss. The second dimension separates texts talking about polemical political decisions from texts describing local actions. Those two dimensions draw four narrative regimes. Those four narratives constitute a “complex of narrative regimes” (Orsini, 2017) that texts mix when they talk about pollinators issues. Public controversies about risk regulations: the first narrative regime refers to public debates which arose in relation to the regulation of causes responsible for pollinators decline. Endangered Biodiversity: the second narrative is related to Biodiversity loss. Enchanted Biodiversity: the third narrative differs from the second by talking about pollinators and biodiversity in a more “positive way”. Texts give information on the essential role of pollinators or they tell stories about the identification of new species. Local actions and pollinators conservation in the everyday life: the last narrative regime consists in describing local actions aiming to protect pollinators or giving advices about pollinator-friendly behaviours.