Introduction to the Course
Ultimately, the goal of this environmental engagement course is to provide us with the tools and strategies to effectively do so in an academic setting and carry this out into the real world. We must take into consideration that every student has come from a unique location and built up diverse experiences that shape who they are today. With this in mind, environmental engagement allows us to be understanding of this concept, while recognizing that this will only help us solve important issues that face us. The following sections are my synthesis of the lessons I have learned in the course so far, as well as how I have applied them in active situations.
Reconnaissance Field Trip and Preparation
The ENVS 295 course began with our reconnaissance trip, which included looking at the background information, values, and services of the organizations we would encounter on the trip. These organizations include the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), Oregon Farm Bureau, United States Forest Service, Willamette Egg Farm, and Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm. Here, we listened to and engaged with representatives from the respective organizations in order to learn their strategies to environmental engagement, how they implement these strategies (i.e. outreach programs, discussion panels, etc.), and how we can apply these diverse lessons to our own learning and interactions.
After we had completed the trip, I felt like I had a better understanding of how many different perspectives and approaches exist, and how hard it can be to engage successfully on important issues. However, this trip also provided me with more tools to do so, such as recognizing the importance of listening, finding common ground, and embracing the other individuals and what they bring to the table. Ultimately, I was able to apply this to the work that my team and I did with our chosen partner organization, the Oregon Farm Bureau, as they are responsible for many political decisions that integrate their core values. Seeing that these core values may not be shared by everyone, I think that it is interesting to examine this and build upon what I learned on the reconnaissance trip.
Partnership Organization Work
As mentioned, my team of Gil Odgers, Amy Borton, Cassie Harper and I chose to work with the Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB), which is a non-profit agricultural organization that aims to provide farm and ranch families with a voice in policy, decision-making, and collaboration. At their core, the Oregon Farm Bureau wants to rest power in the hands of the voting members, who pay a membership fee and contribute to the organization financially. Our team began by doing background research on their mission, values, and the context in which they operate in order to form a partnership record for our work. This research examined all aspects of the organization and applied the conceptual background from the course. Ultimately, we found the Oregon Farm Bureau to be a good organization to learn about and work with, as they promote a sense of community and want everyone’s voices to be heard. However, the organization also values voting members very highly, which is interesting in examining more of the “who” aspect of engagement. Finally, we developed an actor-network theory (ANT) map that combined all of our research into connecting the OFB to their partner organizations and the people that work for or with them. This gave us a basis to form questions to ask during our dialogue with the OFB, as well as ideas we may have for future work with them.
Engagement Deep Dive
The following concepts examine the who, how, and what of environmental engagement and directly tie into our work with partnership organizations. This “engagement deep dive” provides important insight and perspective that covers the work done in this course, as it allows for stronger overall collaboration and understanding of others, their beliefs, and how we can work towards greater solutions together.
The concept of effective action was something I found very useful and interesting, as this was my first exposure to it and provided a strong foundation of knowledge going forward. Here, we viewed the work of the Effective Altruism website, as well as Vox’s concept of Future Perfect. Ultimately, the most important question addressed was “how can we best help others, and what are different aspects of our lives that we can examine in order to do so?”. This means that it is up to us to focus on the vital issues that will provide the greatest benefit if we invest resources into them, such as fighting poverty and climate change. This concept can be applied to our partnership work with the Oregon Farm Bureau, as part of the process consists of identifying the most important issues to collaborate during our engagement together. Finally, one lesson that stood out to me was the emphasis on the individual level and the level of power we possess, even in what we may choose to do as a career.
During the process of examining the “what” of engagement, learning about post-truth was eye opening for me because I was able to see how it contributes to the polarization of our society beyond just one’s political views. This was seen in the article written by Edsall (2020), who examined how politicians can get away with lies because some people value a desired outcome over the truth. Additionally, the work of Chinchilla (2019) shows how this has dominated a large portion of our world, as alternate realities have shaped many of our big events, such as elections and the voting process. The greatest lesson that I gained from these readings was that post-truth works like a chain, as it leads to people perceiving reality in completely different ways and becoming more divided over this, all while receiving a mass of information that may be skewed or twisted. This is important in our Oregon Farm Bureau collaboration because as an organization that deals with politics, it is important to understand the subjectivity of certain issues and know that there may not be a universal truth.
In environmental engagement, the “who” was examined through the Hidden Tribes of America Test, the Six Americas test, the Heterodox Academy, and the work of Luyet et al. (2012). Ultimately, this material helped demonstrate differences in perspectives among society, as well as the importance of diversity in the workplace, within decision-making, and in any collaboration that takes place in our world today. This can be applied to our work with the Oregon Farm Bureau, as it is important to provide everyone with a voice and ensure that there is a fair balance of power within the decision-making sector. Additionally, we must examine all aspects of a situation, how they are interconnected, and make sure that nobody is left out of the discussion. As much as this calls for the inclusion and understanding of others, we also must not forget how ourselves fit into the picture. One background lecture by Proctor (2020) examines this point, as an overarching point of the “who” section of engagement is that we all possess similar traits and beliefs that can connect us as individuals.
Finally, our class examined the “how” aspect of environmental engagement, which combined the “who” and “what” aspects as well as concepts from effective action. The basis of this section is the three models of communication, which consist of the deficit model, framing model, and dialogic model. All three of these can be used in environmental engagement in different ways, but we placed a greater emphasis on the dialogic model, which promotes two-way collaboration and a combination of listening and sharing values. This can be applied to the work of Brookman and Kalla (2016) as well as the work of Narrative 4, who emphasize the importance of two-way dialogue in addressing important issues, such as gun control and transgender rights. The example that stood out the most to me was Narrative 4’s story on gun control, where a group of people with highly polarized beliefs on the issue and different backgrounds came together in the “story exchange” method, which required them to adopt the story of their partner who held different opinions than them. I thought it was very powerful how by doing this, permanent understanding and empathy for others was created, no matter what their fundamental values may be. This can be applied to our work with the Oregon Farm Bureau, as I believe that this story exchange approach can be used in our collaboration together in order to gain insight into the perspective of an organization member versus a college student.
Broockman, David, and Joshua Kalla. 2016. “Durably Reducing Transphobia: A Field Experiment on Door-to-Door Canvassing.” Science 352 (6282): 220–24. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aad9713.
Chinchilla, Laura. 2019. “Opinion | Post-Truth Politics Afflicts the Global South, Too.” The New York Times, October 15, 2019, sec. Opinion. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/15/opinion/politics-global-south.html.
Edsall, Thomas B. 2020. “Opinion | Trump Is Waiting and He Is Ready.” The New York Times, February 12, 2020, sec. Opinion. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/12/opinion/trump-campaign-2020.html.
Luyet, Vincent, Rodolphe Schlaepfer, Marc B. Parlange, and Alexandre Buttler. 2012. “A Framework to Implement Stakeholder Participation in Environmental Projects.” Journal of Environmental Management 111 (November): 213–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2012.06.026.
Proctor, Jim. February 27th, 2020. “Environmental Engagement III: A (Divided) Who”. Background Lecture.https://moodle.lclark.edu/mod/url/view.php?id=500676