How Literate Responses to Technical Communication Can Promote Practical Responses to Environmental Change04/15/2020
The latest scientific reports published by the United Nations and the U.S. Global Change Research Program show evidence that environmental change is occurring. Gaining political momentum to deal with the problem is one issue, but beyond this hurdle is the need to communicate complex scientific information to the public so that they may help make informed decisions about responses to environmental change through the public decision-making process. Communicating this need to the public is challenged by the constraints of transcultural communication (Flower, 2008; Frost, 2013; Ding, 2014) and ideological conceptions of environmental collapse (Latour, 2018). In addition, people must be able to read and write in increasingly technical genres in order to make their voices heard regarding scientific issues surrounding environmental change (Brandt, 2001, 2015). The bar has been set higher for civic participation (Grabill, 2007; Simmons 2008), which precipitates a need for advanced literacies that support transcultural empathy, cooperative decision-making, critical analysis of scientific data, and organizational prototyping for future-oriented planning (Sauer, 2003; Potts, 2013; Gross, 2016). My dissertation research project is studying public communication surrounding development of one of the first freshwater offshore wind farms in North America, on Lake Erie. Methods for the study are mixed and include surveys, interviews, focus groups, and document analysis. Through this study, I will synthesize information surrounding contemporary environmental communication that will help push the next iteration of policy to better address environmental problems in ways that attend to the concrete manifestations of environmental change.