General Project Information
To wrap up our semester in ENVS 295, our team has created an engagement project proposal in collaboration with Oregon Humanities. For our theoretical project, we would implement our own virtual Conversation Project surrounding how our personal connections to land and the biophysical world influence what lands we choose to protect and manage, who we believe should hold the responsibility of protecting lands, and how we protect and manage lands. This Conversation Project would take place in the Portland metropolitan area, Eastern Oregon, and Southern Oregon. Thus, conversations would be virtual to facilitate engagement across distances. The main goals of these conversations are to inspire participants to broaden their own opinions regarding land management and to inspire participants to take further action on the subject. After the initial conversations, we would implement a series of surveys for participants to fill out over six months, which would measure the long-term impacts of dialogical engagement. We would analyze the data gathered by the survey to understand how people think differently depending on the region in which they live.
Our project focuses on our personal connections to land and the biophysical world. Often, reaching a common truth is impossible, yet the importance of land is largely agreed upon, although perhaps for differing reasons. The environmental movement has long held the argument that ecosystems have intrinsic value and no need to put a monetary value on ‘nature,’ which has served as the foundation for many environmental management decisions. (McCauley 2006) On the other hand, a more anthropocentric perspective might argue that land derives its importance from its ascribed economic value, thus putting a price tag on lands is necessary to prioritize which ones we should focus on protecting, as we can not protect them all. (Munns and Rea 2015)
The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and The Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies’s “Nine Types of Americans” study illuminates potential differing perspectives we might encounter during these conversations, ranging from “Liberal Greens” to “Conservative Browns.” At first, we might expect that only those on the left side of the spectrum would place higher value in land and see its preservation as a priority. Yet, in thinking about the wide variety of ways people place value in land, these values transcend the existing political dichotomy, as nearly all people connect to land in some unique way.
The leftmost “Liberal Greens,” consider themselves to be environmentalists, so we expect they would find importance in land simply for its intrinsic value. The next type is “Outdoor Greens,” encompassing Americans that are just as environmentally concerned as “Liberal Greens,” but feel a strong connection with nature and enjoy spending time outdoors. Thus, this group might find intrinsic value in land, as well as the desire to preserve land for outdoor recreational purposes. Once we move past the leftmost side of the spectrum, we stumble upon the “Religious Browns” and “Conservative Browns,” neither of which embody environmentalist attitudes, perhaps even active anti-environmentalists. However, these groups might still enjoy outdoor activities, such as hunting, or value their ability to purchase land for living on. In summary, people on the right side of the spectrum might tend to find instrumental value in the economic aspects and uses of land, as well as the recreational opportunities that it supports, while those identifying on the left side of the spectrum might also enjoy the ability to recreate outdoors, but likely find more intrinsic value in the biophysical world. Yet, we predict that many people apart of our conversation would likely be somewhere in the middle of the spectrum rather than on the polar ends, or may not fit perfectly into one particular category.
Although the study greatly generalizes the diversity of American perspectives on environmental issues, we can see that the importance of land and our unique connections to it are the perfect venues to come to a greater understanding of the plurality of values, perspectives, and truths. People from all over this spectrum can be found in Oregon, and our conversation would aim to bring these differing types together. After all, the intrinsic and economic valuation of land are not mutually exclusive, and there is room for both perspectives to exist simultaneously. (Rea and Munns 2017)
- Interview with Oregon Humanities Executive Director Adam Davis: 3 April 2020
- During this introductory interview, we asked Davis various questions we had about the Conversation Projects. From this interview, we learned that many of our concerns expressed regarding the conversations’ accessibility are already being addressed within the organization, how Oregon Humanities interacts with its participant organizations, what a usual Conversation Project looks like, how facilitators prevent disputes and disrespectful conduct, and how the organization is being impacted by the coronavirus. This interview gave us many ideas for our engagement project.
- Feedback from Healthy Democracy Team: 21 April 2020
- In discussing with the team partnering with Healthy Democracy, it was brought to our attention that some participants may not have access to the internet, which we had not considered before. They made the suggestion to reach out to participants, especially marginalized groups, to ensure that they have internet access before the conversation. Then, those that do not have an internet connection can be connected with a person or group who does, and plan to meet in person to participate in the conversation.
- Feedback from Professor Jim Proctor and ENVS Student Worker: 30 April 2020
- After reviewing our draft post, Proctor and a student worker gave us feedback so we could finalize our project. This feedback included specifying where the three regions are, clarifying our questions, reducing and more closely relating our goals, connecting our assessment section with our goals, clarifying the questions asked in our surveys, and including more of our expertise in the ‘what’ section.