Imperative to environmental engagement is a willingness to converse with people who hold differing views to one’s own in order to establish a common ground on which action can be built upon. This approach to engagement what Crossing Party Lines (CPL) is built around. Starting in 2016, CPL has worked to bring together people with varied political beliefs into active discussions that work to dismantle biases and create understanding. This mission is carried out through in-person and online meetups across the United States on a variety of political topics, varying from private prisons to the Electoral College. Each event is hosted by a moderator, a CPL member who has gone through a four-week online moderator training course and has around ten to twenty participants.
Our Mission: Create open dialogue among Americans with dissimilar ideologies to increase tolerance, build communities, and encourage civic engagement.Crossing Party Lines Mission Statement
After having participated in a meetup and meeting with CPL co-founder Lisa Swallow, my partner Helen Guyton and I believe the methods used by CPL are highly effective and are an important part of bridging the gap between polarized political parties. While CPL covers many necessary topics, environmental issues have not yet been a focus of a meetup. A possible project that could be carried out by future Lewis and Clark ENVS students is the hosting of a CPL event with an environmental topic as the focus of the discussion. Important to this project would be the selection of pre-meetup reading material, which is supplied before all CPL events, by ENVS students. Because it may not be possible for ENVS students to go through the full training process that moderators go through, I suggest that the event would still be hosted by a trained CPL moderator and that ENVS students would act as an accompanied or secondary host with the task of initiating conversation with a pre-set list of questions.
The environmental topic would be chosen by the ENVS students and of course approved by the moderator. This topic could be based on material from ENVS 295 such as climate change, forest management, tribal laws, farm owners vs. farmworkers and federal regulations on farming or take from current environmental topics/interests of ENVS students. In choosing this topic, students would have to educate themselves on both possible sides of the argument and produce pre-meetup material that is unbiased in order to ensure that the conversation is not swayed in a singular direction.
During our discussion with Lisa Swallow, Helen and I asked why CPL had not recently hosted any events with an environmental focus. Swallow relayed back to us that because environmental issues have become so deeply politicized, she believes few Republican/conservative members would sign up for an event with such a topic as the focus. As we further discussed our possible engagement with CPL, we both recognized that hosting an event together would be beneficial to both groups and participants involved. Because she is worried about a participant body skewed to the left, Swallow suggested that she could specifically invite conservative CPL members she knows well and believe would be interested in engagement on an environmental topic. Lewis and Clark students would be welcome to participate in the event, but it should be ensured that a variety of perspectives are represented at the event. The involvement of Swallow here would be helpful to ensure that the conversation has a variety of perspectives and can lead to more effective communication and therefore future action.
The means of connection is fairly simple for this project: participants will discuss an environmental topic using a dialogical model of communication. Because effective engagement is so central to CPL’s mission, i.e. two-way conversation, the co-production of knowledge, and the sharing of experiences, I am confident that the event would be successful in bridging the gap between contested environmental topics. Further processes needed to set up this event would be continued conversation between ENVS 295 students and Lisa Swallow, the choosing of an environmental topic, and the setting up of an event space.
“About Us.” Crossing Party Lines. Accessed April 6, 2020. https://www.crossingpartylines.com/about-us.