544   Roundtable discussion

Science Communication and Socio-Environmental Conflicts

According to the Environmental Justice Atlas, in April 2019, there were 2776 active Socio-Environmental Conflicts worldwide. The actual number is probably larger. NGO's, academics, science journalists, and policymakers are some of the actors involved, making issues of science communication key to understanding the conflicts. The issues are diverse - from nuclear to land conflicts, from mineral ores to fossil fuels. The Global Witness reports - from 2002 to 2018 - show that at least 1733 persons were killed in socio-environmental conflicts. Again, because of obstructions to accessing data, threats to denouncers, and many other reasons, the real numbers are also certainly larger. This alarming amount of people killed and the environmental damages that they were struggling against, reflect the failure at many scales of many agents in this complex scenario. Discussing and reducing these numbers is a challenge for science communication, one of the common interest to environmentalists, academics, journalists, and politicians.

Author: Diogo de Oliveira
Universidade Federal de Campina Grande, Brazil

Since March 2019, I conduct a study that aims to understand how science communication plays a role in relationships between local communities, NGOs and research institutions, and Universities in socio-environmental conflicts in Latin America. Media, the State in different levels, and industries are some of the other actors that use science as a support for their storytelling. I took as references four NGOs to frame the socio-environmental conflict phenomena: Global Witness (UK), Comissão Pastoral da Terra (Brazil), Consejo de Redacción (Colombia), and Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (Mexico). From semi-structured interviews, I was able to approach many ways in which science communication is used by NGOs and traditional communities. The intention of this panel is to bring NGOs into the science communication debate.

Speaker: Jean Ann Bellini
Comissão Pastoral da Terra (Pastoral Land Comission), Brazil

Similar to PCST Network's aims, the Comissão Pastoral da Terra - CPT- has developed scientific methods to systematize data concerning conflicts involving peasant, indigenous and traditional communities, to substantiate its analyses and cultivate social trust in its publications. CPT receives a significant amount of primary sources concerning conflicts and many more secondary sources. Over the years, as the process of communication by CPT of the conflictual nature of rural Brazil evolved and responding to allegations that the complaints publicized by the organization were unfounded, CPT developed its own methodology in dialogue with grassroots' organizations, local CPT teams and researchers in universities, to qualify its work and sustain its communication. While many organizations use the term environmental defenders, CPT prefers the terms used by these populations to identify themselves, which reveal the particular manner in which they relate to the land, the forest, water, etc., and organization of their modes of production.

Speaker: Anaid Olivares
National Observatory of Environmental Conflicts, Mexico

Between 2012 and 2018, the National Observatory of Socio-Environmental Conflicts (ONCA) of Mexico identified 560 socio-environmental conflicts. These conflicts are registered throughout the country for various reasons, including the activities and projects of companies, corporations and the development of public policies that favor the private sector. The communication of socio- environmental conflicts has different nuances in Mexico. However, a large part of society still does not know the situation of different communities in conflict. My proposal is to make a series of podcasts that account for 20 cases of conflicts that remain active and inactive in Mexico from the ONCA database and the role of environmental defenders in the country

Speaker: Bruce Lewenstein
Cornell University, United States

Much of the attention in science communication has focused on journalists, museums, educators, and scientists and PIOs working for universities, research institutes, and government agencies. Yet a substantial amount of science communication comes from NGOs, especially those focused on food security, public health, and environmental action. We know little about the motivations for these groups to use science communication, the tools and methods they focus on, and how they conceptualize the use of science communication in their overall suite of activities. This talk will present a preliminary overview of science communication from environmental NGOs, to help identify themes for further research and practice.

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