Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources


In the last decade, Vermonters have debated the benefits and costs of wind power in the state. Media accounts of the debate have portrayed opposition—particularly by grassroots groups—to utility-scale wind development in Vermont as being primarily aesthetic in nature. In these accounts, activists are represented as being concerned that such development would alter the aesthetic quality of the landscape and be accompanied by ill effects such as reduced tourism and lower property values. The goal of this research is to explain the media’s promotion of the aesthetic by understanding the aesthetic and non-aesthetic rationales that Vermont-based grassroots wind activists have used in the debate, and how they have used them. I situate this understanding in the context of how the Vermont landscape has been historically represented and thought about. I used narrative analysis of interviews I conducted with activists to identify the rationales they used in their arguments. I developed and applied a discourse analysis methodology to understand how they used these rationales in these interviews as well as in activist websites, and in letters to state officials. My findings show how institutionalized meanings of Vermont and its landscape have influenced how activists have framed their arguments for and against wind development. Further, my analyses provide a way of understanding the controversial nature of aesthetic objections to utility-scale wind in terms of the tension between institutionalized ways of representing the Vermont landscape and institutionalized ways of making land use decisions.