Science communication and socio-environmental problems: The case of water and forests

Science communication and socio-environmental problems: The case of water and forests

Author: Susana Herrera – Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente (ITESO), Mexico

James G. Cantrill – Department Head, Communication and Performance Studies Northern Michigan University, Marquette, MI
Alexander Gerber – Chair, International Science Communication, Rhine-Waal University (RWU)
Jennifer Metcalfe – Director, Econnect Communication, Brisbane
Ana Claudia Nepote – Associated Professor/National School of Higher Education National Autonomous University of Mexico

The main purpose of this roundtable is to raise concern about the challenge science communication faces when the object of communication is contemporary socio-environmental problems, specifically those related to water and forests. Forests have a close relationship with water, they are very valuable water reservoirs and therefore humans depend on them. Socio-environmental issues demand interdisciplinary approaches and the articulation between global, regional and local scales. They acquire different forms and manifestations in different geographical areas with specific biophysical configurations and social contexts.

The evidence of the transformations in the balance of planetary ecosystems derived from human interventions situate the social-environmental problems as a central subject in public space. These demands not only the articulation of scientific knowledge coming from diverse disciplines, both natural and social, but also the need to relate it to specific cultural, economic and political contexts. The links between forest, water, and social life are complex. They are related to phenomena, projects and actions that affect the ecosystem’s balance, the hydrological and geohydrologic cycle, and that have an impact on social life, human health, food sufficiency, and production processes, both in rural and urban context. However, they are presented worldwide in different ways in each region, and the communicators of science face different kinds of challenges.

Our aim is to give an account of these challenges faced by the communicators of different regions and latitudes involved in these problems. How to identify and define the “communicable” to non-specialized social groups? How to articulate scientific knowledge from different disciplines to account for complex socio-environmental phenomena? How to incorporate the biophysical and socio-cultural particularities of phenomena and problems?

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Roundtable discussion
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Investigating science communication practices