Our project focuses on creating a new Conversation Project to add to the many topics that Oregon Humanities already offers. This project would be region-specific, including participants from specified geographic regions instead of participants chosen by an organization or group. Our proposed conversation would function differently from the other conversations held by Oregon Humanities, and would possibly be held on an online platform and include a series of surveys to gauge the long-term effects on participants.
The first step towards environmental engagement is addressing “what” is the environmental issue at hand. Ideally, our project would be an exploration of what it means to be connected to land, asking participants to share their experiences. After hearing their personal stories, we would then connect them to values and opinions surrounding the importance of land protection. Facilitators would introduce various forms of land protection and management, especially those relevant to the region in which the conversation is taking place. Facilitators would discuss what measures are currently being taken to protect land, who might be currently protecting it, and what their motivations are for managing it. Ideally, this would spark dialogue surrounding ideas of why land should be protected and if the current ways of management are serving the participants and their concerns. The conversation would pose the question of how we determine what kinds of land to protect and why we protect land, whether it be for its cultural value, scenic appeal, economic value, or its intrinsic value.
In what some might call a post-truth world , it’s important to acknowledge the diversity of personal truths, therefore this seems like a perfect venue to engage with these various perspectives toward a common goal: finding a collective truth. It’s safe to say that most people feel a personal connection to land and the biophysical world, and the reasonings behind those attachments are likely to differ from person to person. That said, the intensely personal aspect of this topic would create many different passionate perspectives on how and for what reasons we should or shouldn’t manage and protect land. People on all sides of the spectrum of ideals and values find some importance in land, whether it’s for the purposes of outdoor recreation, hunting, the ecological habitats land provides, or the sake of the land itself. While it may be difficult to agree on a common truth, through this method of engagement it’s possible to come to a greater understanding of the plurality of truth and the factors influencing why certain truths are held by certain people.
An important part of our project would be holding the conversation virtually on a video conference platform, such as Zoom. The virtual conversations would be situated in regions around Oregon, offering insight into the potential regional differences in how people view the importance of land.
In addition to hosting the conversations online, we propose a series of post-conversation surveys for participants to assess the long-lasting impacts of the Conversation Projects. Apart from the first survey, each follow-up survey will be identical. The first survey will differ from the rest because it will ask some theoretical questions, such as, “Do you think you will take further action inspired by today’s conversation?” Other than that, the surveys will ask the exact same questions. The questions will ask whether or not their opinion and perception of the discussion topic has changed due to the conversation, and how so. The questionnaires beyond the initial survey will ask if participants have further changed their perspectives and if they’ve taken actions inspired by the conversation projects, and if so, to describe the actions taken.
To encourage people to actually complete the survey, questions would be primarily multiple choice. If participants feel inclined to type out a more descriptive answer beyond the multiple choice selection, that would be an option beneath each question. Overall, the surveys would be brief and easy to complete within a short time frame, so we can collect as much data as possible.