Throughout ENVS 295 there has been the reoccurring staple of the what, who, and how as the three pillars of environmental engagement. As we have gone into depth on each of these topics through readings and in-class discussion, we have also applied them to each of our partner organizations. We have partnered with Crossing Party Lines (CPL), an organization aimed at bridging the conversational gap between people on different sides of the political spectrum in an effort to promote mutual understanding.
As outlined in our “Everything in Moderation” post centered around the “what,” we would like to set up a program for students in the Portland area to take a revised version of CPL’s existing moderator training with a larger focus on how to engage with environmental topics. With this training, the goal would be for these students to get involved in helping to host a CPL meet up with a specific environmental topic. The next step is then a deeper understanding of the “who” of our project (a deeper dive into “who” content can be found here).
The identification of stakeholders prior to the development of an environmental project is essential in that it ensures that no one will be left out and that a greater diversity of experience will be represented (Luyet et al. 2012). Three main stakeholder groups are clearly identifiable for this proposed project: CPL moderator trainers, the youth participating in the training program, and the future meetup participants.
Because the first part of our proposed project is a training program, it is necessary to identify who would be teaching this lesson plan. For the traditional CPL training programs, they are taught by CPL co-founder Lisa Swallow via an online teaching platform. While Swallow is well versed in the world of political difference, it would be important to work with her comfortability in teaching a more environmentally focused training program. This could mean that other CPL employees help in this training process. Also relevant here would be the next group of ENVS 295 students who work with CPL. Their discussion of effective environmental engagement in the class should be used to work with Swallow to modify the curriculum to focus more on environmentalism.
The next group fundamental to this project is the people involved in the moderator training. This group would be made up of college-age people and students from around the Portland area, drawing from Lewis and Clark as well as other universities/colleges. Although the moderators are trained in how to manage their own biases and difference when hosting meetings, ideally these trainees would come from a diversity of political and social backgrounds as to make sure that a range of people are getting this experience of how to engage with difficult environmental topics.
A significant element in this objective of multi-party conversation is ensuring that a diversity of perspectives is being represented. While most people are generally aware of their political leanings, resources like the Hidden Tribes of America quiz can be useful in identifying people’s more specific political beliefs. Further, Luyet writes that the characterization of stakeholders can be useful “in order to understand the power relations between them and their specific interest in the project” (Luyet et al. 2012).
Although CPL doesn’t usually ask for people to identify their political leanings prior to meetings, the problem can then be, when there is a lack of knowledge on who will show up, that only one side will be represented, leading to echo-chamber style “conversations.” This issue of viewpoint diversity is key to the problem statement published by Hederox Academy and also plays a great role in American democracy. Miller-Lane (2006) writes that “to disagree constructively” is to “suspend the rush of judgment so that an idea can have a genuine hearing.” CPL actively works to encourage a diversity of perspectives, which proves to be difficult when talking about environmental issues because they are so often deeply politicized (Lifset 2008).
While CPL usually gathers a varied group of people for their meetups on political topics, Lisa Swallow conveyed to us that any meetup they have attempted around an environmental topic has gathered only left-wing people. To combat this, Swallow proposed self-selecting CPL members, a mix of Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians, that she believed would receptive to this topic.
In concluding the analysis of the “who,” it should be noted that is a need for political diversity alone does not suffice when talking about environmental topics. While discussion across political divides is necessary, it is also essential that a diverse group of people along the lines of race, socioeconomic status, and gender are included in these discussions as a means of including all stakeholders.
- Lifset, Robert D. 2008. “In Search of Republican Environmentalists.” Reviews in American History 36, no. 1: 117-25.
- 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.
- Miller-Lane, Jonathan. 2006. “Constructive Disagreement, the Body, and Education for Democracy.” The Social Studies 97, no. 1: 16-20.