There are a myriad of environmental issues that concern today’s world, and making sure everybody is aware of them is a key step in solving them. However, getting the message across to spread awareness is not as simple as just telling people these issues exist. There are three models of environmental communication that we can use to address all kinds of issues, that also apply elsewhere: they are the deficit model, framing model, and the dialogic approach.
The deficit model consists of filling in the gap of scientific knowledge that people have with the necessary facts to inform them so that they may now be persuaded to take action; this has been proven to not be a very effective way to communicate information (Hulme, 2009). The framing model takes a slightly more complex approach by taking the audience’s context of life into account, but still remains a one-way flow of communication, and does not lead to adequate mobilization that is needed (Cox, 2010). Then we have the dialogic approach, which requires a two-way conversation that doesn’t just have one truth to it, but rather both parties have their different truths that apply to their differing backgrounds and experiences (Proctor and Fellows).
An example of the dialogic approach we discussed was a study regarding transphobia, which involved canvassing in Florida and telling people about their experiences with transphobia. They found that people were more susceptible to this approach which showed emotions and vulnerability, as they were able to change people’s minds about nondiscrimination laws in Miami-Dade County (Broockman and Kalla, 2016). Another example we looked at was Narrative 4’s “story exchange” approach. They ask people to share their experience about a certain issue, and then for the person they share it with the larger group, emphasizing vulnerability and empathy. While this particular approach has its limits regarding the particular issue at hand, it can be effective.
Connecting CRITFC’s ‘What’ to CRITFC’s ‘Who’
In looking at possible How approaches to connect CRITFC’s What to CRITFC’s Who, it is important to review who exactly is involved in CRITFC’s engagement. To review, some key stakeholders involved with CRITFC include four tribes (Yakama, Warm Springs, Umatilla, and Nez Perce), CRITFC’s enforcement officers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the CRITFC Fish Science Department, and children that are involved in CRITFC’s educational outreach. Also to review CRITFC’s ‘What’, CRITFC ensures Tribal fishing rights, manages fishing policy, provides fishing services, and educates the public.
Knowing this information, it seems that CRITFC follows the classical (deficit) model of environmental communication. This model is based on the idea that “science-based policy is grounded in inadequate scientific understanding, which when addressed will result in public support” (link). A classical approach to connecting CRITFC’s what to CRITFC’s who would be CRITFC’s legal team working diligently to ensure tribal fishing rights, or the enforcement officers working along the river to make sure policies and laws are being practiced correctly, or through the educational book CRITFC provides for school students.
CRITFC has the opportunities to incorporate the dialogical approach into their engagement by interacting with people that are not normally involved with the CRITFC organization. To create a two way conversation they could talk with taxpayers, hydroelectric developers and other fishers that may have opposing views. Initiating a discussion between these actors would allow for them to share their “truths” and also allow them to listen to others truths, creating a more open conversation where all perspectives and experiences are heard. A possible scenario for this style of engagement would be a public forum or an open discussion where spokespeople from differing actors could share their values and opinions. This type of engagement could consist of actors with alternate views to bounce ideas off of each other, feel heard and emphasize their connectedness through their shared interest of the Columbia River. This could improve CRITFC’s overall engagement because it could provide them the opportunity to spread the understanding of their experiences and goals, allowing for others to hear and empathize better with their motives. It could also give them the opportunity to gain a better understanding of others’ beliefs and even incorporate them into their own organization. Overall this could allow for easier, free flowing dialogue and improve the organization’s communication with actors that have opinions that may not be similar to their own.
Broockman, D., and J. Kalla. July 2016. “Durably Reducing Transphobia: A Field Experiment on Door-to-Door Canvassing.” Science. 352, no. 6282: 220–24. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aad9713.
Cox, J. Robert. 2010. “Beyond frames: Recovering the strategic in climate communication.” Environmental Communication 4 (1): 122–33. https://doi.org/10.1080/17524030903516555.
Hulme, Mike. 2009. “The Communication of Risk.” In Why We Disagree about Climate Change: Understanding Controversy, Inaction and Opportunity, 211–47. Cambridge University Press.
Narrative 4. August 19, 2019 . “Our Work.” Narrative 4. https://narrative4.com/about/our-work/.
Proctor, Jim, and Aaron Fellows. n.d. “Models of Environmental Communication.” ENVS Resources. Accessed March 12, 2020. https://jimproctor.us/envs/models-of-environmental-communication/.
Proctor, James D. 2019. June 23, 2019. “When Our Ideas Differ: Three Options.” EcoTypes: Exploring Environmental Ideas (blog). Accessed March 12, 2020. https://jimproctor.us/ecotypes/about-ecotypes/when-our-ideas-differ-three-options/.