Posted on Jan 18, 2022

EcoEducation: Environmental Communication - Theory, Practice, and a Case in Point

Evelyn Dsousa is finishing her PHd in rhetoric and scientific and technical communication and spoke to the EcoClub about considerations for technical communications.  
Three take aways that Evelyn wanted to leave us with: 
  • "The environment" we experience and affect is largely a product of how we come to talk about the world. 
  • Communication is not a unidirectional act from sender to receiver; it is a complex system of activities, and it exists in relation to hosts of factors that give rise to, limit, or otherwise shape the way communication acts are created, shred, received, and circulated. 
  • "Successful" environmental communication requires layered understandings of the subjects we engage, and the people with whom we engage in conversation: attending to design and systems.  
In one part of her presentation, Evelyn used the way that the Hackensack Meadowlands, a wetland area in New Jersey, as a illustrative example of how challenging it can be to effectively communicate.  She shared newspaper clippings that described the Meadowlands as mosquito infested, and "outwardly mean and inhospitable" and celebrated a time when they could be reclaimed and turned into profitable "redeemed" land.  Understanding of the importance of wetlands has evolved since the times those articles were written and if thinking about the takeaways Evelyn left for us, we can see how difficult it would be to communicate our current understanding to someone who felt as most did in early history, that a wetland was wasted space and something to be conquered.     
Hackensack Meadowlands    Image credit - Evelyn Dsouza