Over the past semester, we have been working on an engagement deep-dive to better understand practices of effective engagement and action. We explored the three different constituents of effective engagement – what, who, and how – so that we could move forward with our partner organization Crossing Party Lines and apply what we have learned in practice with them. The first constituent that we explored was the “what” and with a deep-dive focused on how we are living in a post-truth world where there is a multitude of “truths”. This can make it a challenge to find the real “truths” especially when in our age of social media “there are no easy truths when it comes to the benefits and perils…” (Chinchilla 2019) that these platforms pose to our access to facts.
Our partner CPL is an organization focused on bringing together individuals spread across the political spectrum to achieve an open dialogue about real issues, without judgment. They hold weekly meetups in person – currently online due to COVID-19 – where different topics surrounding political divides and how to engage across differences are discussed. CPL works hard to ensure that their meetups don’t approach topics with a single-party stance, and they hope to dismantle post-truth politics via these conversations. It isn’t only CPL that is concerned with the effects that post-truth is having on our current political sphere. A piece in the NY Times in 2017 stated: “We worry that democracy is threatened by the ease at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish.” (Schulten 2017) This NY Times article was geared towards teachers and helping them teach their students how to evaluate sources in these trying times.
Taking into account our background knowledge of the “what” in environmental engagement, we wanted to create a project that would build on both our deep-dive and CPL’s strengths/goals. Our proposed engagement project will combat our post-truth reality by building on an existing moderator training that CPL already has in use and holding a meetup on how to climate change fact check.
For the first step we would work with CPL to build upon this 4-week online course and shift the focus from solely “talking & listening politics – CPL style” to “talking & listening environmental politics – CPL style”. The second step would be to reach out to youth in the Portland area and recruit interested participants in this moderation training. The point of this would be to gain as diverse a group of youth as possible, so research will need to be done into how to use the right channels of getting people involved. The last step would be to actually host this meetup with the trained youth moderators – supported by CPL staff – and opening up this conversation about climate change fact-checking in our post-truth world.
When we interviewed Lisa Swallow the co-founder of CPL in March, she brought up the point that it is very hard to talk about topics like climate change specifically, without them being politicized. According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) even if it proves difficult this communication is crucial to achieving “interaction between interested stakeholders…” (AAAS 2020), which is how our project will help to bridge the polarized political divide – CPL’s mission – and simultaneously go hand in hand with effective environmental engagement.
The 4-week course would be designed to be intensive, yet not all time consuming to make it perfect for our targeted participants, and the meetup would start as a two-hour one-time commitment. This proposed project is incredibly important because it will give the youth participants the tools to lead effective engagement discussions about climate change facts and, hopefully, effectively cross party lines, in our post-truth world.
- American Association for the Advancement of Science. 2020. “Why Public Engagement Matters.” Accessed April 13, 2020. https://www.aaas.org/resources/communication-toolkit/what-public-engagement
- Chinchilla, Laura 2019. “Post-Truth Politics Afflicts the Global South, Too.” The New York Times. The New York Times. Accessed March 3rd, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/15/opinion/politics-global-south.html
- Schulten, Katherine, and Amanda Christy Brown. 2017. “Evaluating Sources in a ‘Post-Truth’ World: Ideas for Teaching and Learning About Fake News.” The New York Times.The New York Times. January 19.