How are Environmental Ideas Communicated?
How should we communicate? What is most effective? What makes an approach more successful? There are three outlined methods of environmental communication, which present different engagement strategies with varying degrees of success.
The first is the Classical (Deficit) Model, which posits that the public’s lack of support for environmental issues is simply due to a deficit of facts and information. As this deficit is filled by experts providing this information, the public is subsequently expected to adapt their viewpoint.
The second model is the Framing Model. While similar to the Deficit model with its view of information being a one way flow of giving to receiving, it complicates the transaction by acknowledging the different contexts that change how people receive said information. The third and final model is the Contemporary (Dialogic) Model. This model critiques the flow of information laid out in the previous two models. Instead it argues that communication of environmental issues should be a two way dialogue that involves both listening and speaking for everyone involved.
This final model, the dialogic model is the trending model in current environmental engagement thought. This model aims to actively engage with the individual, most importantly, through listening, asking questions and trying to find common ground upon which to build a discussion. Narrative 4 is an organization that is based up a story-exchange engagement model, wherein people present their life experiences in order to ground discussion in a human-based manner rather than simply issue versus issue. This approach can be totally dependent upon the attitudes of those entering into the exercise. If individuals enter into the exchange closed off and set in their opinions and thoughts, then the limitations take hold the and promise flies out the window, but if the exchange is allowed to work as intended and people enter open-minded and respectful of others, then it can be a effective way to create deeper and more significant connection in order to talk about what is most critical.
The “How” of the Stew Crew
The Stew Crew brings an interesting mix of story-exchange methods and dialogic communication. The collaborative aims to bring stakeholders into conversation with one another. This works towards giving faces and names to interests and organizations rather than blanket preconceived notions about who and what these stakeholders bring to the table. The Stew Crew already does a great job putting the dialogic model into action through their meetings and collaborative objectives. The Stew Crew was born out of the need for more engaged connection. It might be giving credit to the importance of talking and face-to-face exchange of ideas, to suggest that this is what felt necessary in the case of the Hood River Forest. Future engagement efforts could likely include more community outreach in order to get a more diverse group of stakeholders knowledgeable about the meetings and willing to attend. Additionally, we as Lewis and Clark students are planning on building a partnership with the Stew Crew to develop potential engagement opportunities between the Collaborative and the college.
The “Who,” “What,” and “How”
In the Crew, engagement is accomplished through dialog among stakeholders which is then brought into dialog with the United States Forest Service. This 2-step dialog process allows not only for many voices to be heard, but for stakeholders to discuss their ideas with one another, and engage with why they believe what they believe. This dialog is important as the “what,” every step of the way. As this shows, dialog is central to the Stew Crew’s process. However, more could potentially be done within the Collaborative to properly categorize and empower the diverse stakeholders involved, as we mentioned in our “Who” post.
Reasons for Dialog
Of course, it is important to remember the “post-truth” discourse that exists today, especially in environmental issues. By using a dialogic approach to co-produce knowledge, people can critically evaluate their opinions and get to a wider truth. This is important in land management, where there are many misconceptions and strongly held beliefs. When land is for the public, the public has a say in how land is managed. And when everyone has their own beliefs, dialogue is necessary to come to a compromise.
Dialogue can help us overcome this, as dialogue with community members and professionals can help people come to a shared understanding of truth. Dialogue helps to build community and shared truths, especially in a world that is so divided.
Opportunities For Dialog
Ultimately, the ranger district has the final say in what happens in the Hood River Ranger District. Using the dialogic approach, stakeholders can share personal experiences with the forest rather than just suggestions for how it should be managed. Issues of forest management are complicated because everyone has a different opinion, and sometimes this cannot be reconciled without an open dialogue. By combining the processes of determining necessary stakeholders (the “Who”) with the process of how best to communicate between those stakeholders (the “How”), the Hood River Forest Collaborative will be able to communicate between the diverse stakeholders more meaningfully and become more effective in their engagement.