Engagement allows for a wide variety of perspectives to be included in the search for a solution to a variety of environmental issues.”
Engagement is essential to consider and integrate into all fields and disciplines. When it comes to environmental engagement specifically, it is especially important to incorporate engagement as an essential practice. Engagement allows for a wide variety of perspectives to be included in the search for a solution to a variety of environmental issues. It is key to include all perspectives because it may allow for the generation of new ideas and understanding of values that may have not been taken into account had all views not been considered. It may be hard to identify all groups and individuals that should be included in the engagement process, but it is important to recognize them because marginalized groups’ voices get excluded the most often. These groups then get pushed to the side even more because their perspectives are not being heard which means when action is taken, their well-being may not get taken note of.
Identifying who we are engaging with, whether directly or as an audience, is important because it enhances our ability to navigate these difficult issues with them. There are many different classifications of people in the world which is why it is important to identify the types that you are presenting to or interacting with. When it comes to environmental engagement specifically, there are six different types of reactions to global warming throughout America. Knowing the group classification that you are presenting to out of these six is key to knowing how to interact with them. For example, if you are presenting to the “alarmed” group, less effort will need to be put in to get them to recognize the negative climate conditions we are currently in. However, if you are presenting to the “disengaged” group which is on the other end of the spectrum, you will recognize that it will take much more effort and facts to sway these people to understand the climate emergencies we are threatened with today.
When engaging with others, we have also discussed the importance of taking note of how to engage and discuss with one another. There are three overarching models of communication that are used in environmental engagement.
The Models of Communication
The first is the classical (deficit) model. The classical (deficit) model is powered by the idea that the public generally lacks ability to understand scientific findings that are presented to them. Oftentimes, their immediate reaction is to ignore the information they are presented with because they are incapable of effectively understanding it. Thus, this model suggests that if we efficiently address this issue and make it so the public can understand the information they are presented with more easily, then one will be able to obtain their support. The public will likely react to more shocking news which is also important to take into account when using this model.
The second model commonly used is the framing model. This model is based off the idea that people receive, process, and understand information in a variety of ways. An individual’s emotional and cognitive abilities play a role in how they interpret information. Information needs to be presented in such a way that it is tailored to each individual. It is key to accurately target different groups and present them with the same information, but in unique ways that influence them the most in order to most effectively engage with them.
The third and final model is the contemporary (dialogic) model. This model advocates for the acts of listening as well as speaking. Essentially, when an individual shares their own perspective on an issue, they must not only focus their attention on their thoughts and beliefs. One must also engage with others and listen to other individuals’ values and core beliefs. This is extremely beneficial because it allows all perspectives to be considered which can lead to the creation of more solutions with greater ease. I would advocate for this model the most because it holds the core values that really make up the idea of what it means to practice engagement by incorporating all voices. It proposes the inclusion of all parties involved in this issue and brings together all perspectives in order to find the best strategies for producing solutions.
It is important to understand the way that people respond to information presented to them and how to get them to engage effectively. Knowing what people will and will not respond to is essential in spreading information, especially in the environmental world. If you want the public to back you and create a sense of engagement with everyone involved then it is essential to understand the way in which each group thinks and views things.
Another issue to prioritize when engaging with others is examining the “what” that is being shared with the world. The world we live in today is an era of post-truth. This means that objective facts are not as influential in shaping the public’s opinions than appeals to emotions and personal beliefs are. Trump is especially good at using these post-truth tactics. His tactic is to tell his followers what they already believe and what they want to hear, even if he knows it isn’t true. This allows him to gain more support even while lying at times (Edsall, 2020). Additionally, post-truth is important to factor in when engaging with the public because it explains why some people are so susceptible to believing lies, such as the idea that climate change is not real. Working against these post-truth claims is challenging, but it is still important to counter against them in the fight for environmental justice.
Additionally, once you have identified the “what”, “who,” and “how,” you must identify the best form of action. Effective action utilizes logic and evidence to incorporate all causes and actions in order to determine the most beneficial route of action to take. We learned from “Introduction to Effective Altruism,” that for example while it is good to be charitable, it is even better to choose to do the action that is the most beneficial for the greatest number of people. This may seem controversial because it may seem like the little actions that people take to better the environment are not as meaningful, but that is not the case. If you have the means to take these bigger steps that do the most good for the greatest number of people then you should focus your energy on those measures. But if you cannot afford to do that, then little actions should still be taken even if they are not quite as beneficial.
Portland Harbor Community Coalition
The Portland Harbor Community Coalition (PHCC) is the partnership group that I have been working with throughout this semester. They exemplify excellent standards of environmental engagement because they work to let the voices of those in the community who are most negatively impacted by the pollution in the Portland Harbor Superfund site be heard. PHCC advocates for the cleanup, restoration, and redevelopment of the site in order to make it a safer place for the surrounding community to live in. This is a good form of engagement because they are making sure that when big decisions are being made about the Portland Harbor Superfund site, the decision makers take into account the values of those who are most marginalized by the site.
Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm
The Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm was the place and presentation that I focused on with my group during our reconnaissance field trip. The Wood Shoe Tulip Farm is involved in environmental engagement with many different groups. Barb Iverson discussed the many intricacies that come with running and maintaining the farm. This includes engaging with a number of different groups because of different rules and regulations that are in place. An example of this is the Oregon Farm Bureau (OFB) which is a nonprofit, statewide organization that focuses its energy on representing family and local farmers and promoting their best interests. Iverson is the president of the OFB so not only does she engage with the OFB through the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, but she engages with other local farmers as well when working to promote their rights through the OFB.