Sustainable Northwest has proven themselves to be successful at facilitating environmental engagement in the “radical middle” of natural resource management —pioneering solutions for multi-party environmental issues ranging from wood supply to river restoration. Not only do they have experience dealing with the immediate stakeholders of their core natural resource projects (i.e. farmers, tribes, rural communities), but they have expanded their engagement to reach various industries and governmental actors. With this taken into account, my group mates and I consider Sustainable Northwest an incredibly valuable academic resource for students looking to get into the field of natural resource management or environmental studies as a whole. We decided to center our project around an academic workshop. Here Sustainable Northwest will work with organizations outside of their current operations (specifically urban organizations) to deliver a workshop-style curriculum to students across upper high school to college. As Sustainable Northwest largely operates within rural communities, this project also aims to connect rural and urban communities via the sharing of environmental knowledge.
Reflecting back to the “What” of environmental engagement, we realize that the “post-truth” is relevant to the world we live in today. More specifically, Thomas B. Edsall, in his article “Trump Is Waiting and He Is Ready,” speaks on post-truth in the political arena. Edsall claims that Democrats and Republicans “view the same reality through a different lens” (Edsall 2020). He explains that dissimilar perspectives on a shared reality lends itself to growing political polarization —in that engagement and progress is difficult when various groups interpret one truth in multiple ways. The political perspectives of the left and right exist in different realities.
Of course, this idea of post-truths and multiple realities extends beyond the political arena. Posts-truths and multiple realities exist in a plethora of environmental issues like renewable energy development, agricultural practices, and forest management —to name a few. Sustainable Northwest exists at the middle of these conflicts, facilitating environmental engagement between groups whose political and environmental perspectives may conflict. As seen —for example— in their work in the water management and river restoration project, Sustainable Northwest needed to work with 26 entities to address various perspectives to the stakeholders. As we have learned in ENVS 295, these connections are critical as engagement across boundaries may lend to the co-production of valuable knowledge. Reflexively, these complex, real-world engagements are often left outside of the classroom. The skills, strategies, and projects needed to make Sustainable Northwest function are of interest to a wide range of students who are interested in pursuing a career in the environmental realm. Our project aims to connect students with Sustainable Northwest in order to supplement students’ in-class curriculum with knowledge that is more focused on skill-based, real-world, and multi-perspective.
In addition to the curriculum of the workshops being based off of the post-truth idea of multiple perspectives, the connections between Sustainable Northwest —an organization whose work is largely rural-based— and students, largely learning in more urban-based settings, also addresses the idea of “post-truths.” When speaking to Greg Block, the president of Sustainable Northwest, he was quite interested in what our demographic of students (19-20 year old students learning out of an urban city) viewed issues regarding natural resources. The discussions stemming from his interest in us and our interest in him and his organization were productive. We believe that a workshop including both urban and rural communities and perspectives will lead to fruitful discussions and learning opportunities for both the students and the organizations involved.
Edsall, Thomas B. 2020. “Trump Is Waiting and He Is Ready.” New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/12/opinion/trump-campaign-2020.html.