Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Community and McKenzie-Mohr

Finally a topic no longer specifically related to a psychology case study!

Although psychology is deeply entrenched in behavioral research and obviously important to consider during any community based social marketing, it was refreshing for me to find a direct relationship with what I do for work, and the work of Dr. Doug Mckenzie-Mohr.

I have started reading Mckenzie-Mohr’s Social Marketing to Protect the Environment as a follow up to his previous work, Fostering Sustainable Behavior, and the quality of information found within the pages of this book has been invaluable to my potential thesis work. I thought this might be one of the best additions to my literature review, and then we were directed to several websites in class.

This is a resource I welcomed with open arms! There are almost 1500 articles pertaining to community based social marketing, and within these are case studies about waste, the introduction of new curbside collection programs, and how to identify barriers and bridges to participation in these programs.

The forums were also a source of innovation, inspiration, and project sharing. I’m looking forward to taking a peruse through these when I can afford to allot time to do so. A project that captured my attention was a woman looking to start a recycling center in Uganda. This web resource really spans the world, and community based solutions can connect people and the environment in engaging and meaningful ways.

A community based project asking Calgary youth what they loved and what they would change about Calgary. A couple of my colleagues and his worship Mayor Nenshi. 
The addition of the book Fostering Sustainable Behavior being available as an online resource through the website was also a nice touch. Although I own the book, if I don’t want to haul it around, it’s online!

Overall I was extremely pleased with this resource. I will keep my eyes open for an upcoming webinar or workshop from Mckenzie-Mohr, as I feel I would benefit from more exposure to the concept of community based social marketing. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Live and let live downstream

Living Downstream as interpreted by producer, director and filmmaker Chanda Chevannes depicts the story of Sandra Steingraber, an ecologist who dedicates her research to “explore the links between human rights and the environment, with a focus on chemical contamination” (Steingraber, 2010).

I had mixed emotions during the film. On one hand I was sympathetic to the human trials and tribulations Steingraber traveled through. She was diagnosed with cancer at a young age, and battled the disease along side her mother. Both survived. Steingraber discovered a mentor in nature author and early environmental activist, Rachel Carson. Gaining momentum from where Carson left off, after passing away from cancer, Steingraber researched the impacts of local industry and the effects the chemicals had on her community. She brought these issues to corporate and political America, and continues to share her message.

On the other hand, her perseverance and dedication to her work is admirable, but I feel (based on the portrayal in the film) she seems almost detached from emotion after everything she has researched and the health complications she has encountered. I have not had cancer and I feel reluctant to state this, but as a cancer survivor I would try to live my life to the fullest, be happy to spend time with family and friends and shed light on the possibilities of just being alive. It is easy to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and speculate what they might feel, think or do. Maybe she is still coming to accept her situation, maybe she internalizes her feelings and outputs them through her runs, or maybe she feels that in order to maintain a sense of normalcy in her family she needs to act like nothing happened.

I felt that the film was somewhat Erin Brockovich-esque, as both women were dealing with big business, small town, and the chemical contamination. Both stories are important crusades against the unethical treatment of the environment and I salute you Sandra Steingraber, and you as well Erin Brockovich! 

Ro Randall with a side of loss

During the past two years I have experienced more loss than I ever had in my past twenty-eight. Compared to many others, my losses, although hard, pale in comparison the hardships friends and other family members have experienced. I don’t mean to diminish the deaths of my Uncle Brent and Gido. They had extenuating circumstances that allowed the family time, albeit short, prior to their passing. I don’t know if that time allowed me to process their deaths. I was sad to say goodbye, but I was realistic about it. I loved them both and feel extremely fortunate to have had both of them in my life. Ro Randall’s “Get Real” approach resonated with me. I feel her framework to dealing with Loss and her blogs and creating a safe space allowed me to consider how I could, if I felt the need, deal with loss and do so in a constructive manner.

I found Ro Randall’s blog about creating a safe space refreshingly honest and I immediately felt a sense of comfort. Her style of creating relatable moments and comparing them to life events allowed me to immediately trust her. She created rapport within five or six paragraphs. I’m not a mother, but I found myself imaging the relationship between a mother and her infant. The connection between the two can create a bond that

The loss of a family member forever changes the dynamic of the family. Does climate change translate with people the same way? If it is facilitated in that safe space Randall discusses, I can see the merits in setting up the conversation with the audience in mind and furthering it with the truth (and nothing but the truth!). Can framing climate change in a safe place bring forth the process of dealing with the degradation of our environment? I’m an avoider but I appreciate honesty. Maybe it could work for me. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Rationing Hope

Sharing contrasting views of hope and despair based on the readings by Swaisgood & Sheppard, Patton and Lidicker through a conversation in residence, as well as in class, enhanced the perceptions I felt about the two topics. I know this is a belated post, but I felt I still had valuable narratives to share.

Hope and despair seem deeply entrenched as two of the same. Is there a way to have hope without despair?

I believe I live my life within a lens of optimism. I work in a vocation where it is possible to spend every day dwelling on the negative. According to recent studies on landfills in Calgary, it is estimated that we have a mere thirty to forty years left before our three city managed landfills are full. Sounds scary. It could very truly be a reality though. How as an environmental educator can I frame this in a constructive and hopeful manner? Offering a solution could lend itself to a sense of empowerment for those I share my messages with. Learning that, in Calgary, we do in fact have the potential to reduce our waste by 80%. Providing residents with options to do so through waste diversion can renew feelings of hope.

Consider this: most residents are aware that their garbage and recycling get collected once a week and they notice a fee on their energy bill. Do most know where their garbage and recycling end up? Or the process it takes to build a landfill cell or run the Materials Recovery Facility? Encouraging people to invest not just a monetary value on their waste collection services, but understand where their money goes could empower them to make changes to their consumer habits, and solidify a sense of hope that they, as consumers, can make a huge difference.

Is despair necessary? In my case from work I feel that there is no need to facilitate or encourage feelings of despair. I can see that the work David Orr has contributed regarding being realistic could negate the need for despair. His honesty is refreshing and although he will share the truth even if the results are unfavorable, he does it for the greater good, and I feel the hope, that humans have the basis to understand and educate themselves further.

Moving on…

I intrinsically believe that conservation biologists require a support system from which they can lean on each other when they may have a barrage of ill tidings. Is it right for them to only divulge the good news stories like Swaisgood so kindly did in “Zoonooz”? It doesn’t hurt…they share the positive, the hopeful and the optimistic…can collective hope encourage change and provide that support system?
For the benefit of the hard working conservation biologists, I certainly have my fingers crossed in a hopeful way for you.!

 Rationing Hope?
Canned Goods from the Royal British Columbia Museum

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


The concept of addressing environmental issues through fear is a route I am not necessarily comfortable with taking. I prefer presenting an issue honestly and without bias (when possible), and then offering realistic solutions. I will provide facts about an issue, but quite frankly scare tactics in Environmental Education aren’t my style. After reading ‘Fear Won’t Do It” by O’Neill and Nicholson-Cole, I felt validated with my approach.

I understand the strength in the emotion of fear; it can rip people apart mentally, and paralyze physically depending on the degree of emotion.

Is this emotion being overused or abused when offering information about environmental issues? Research addressed in the O’Neill and Nicolson-Cole paper mentioned the skepticism and apathy demonstrated through the reactions from audiences receiving the messages from climate change organizations. The doom and gloom messaging depicting images of icebergs melting, famine and flooding doesn’t hit home with the receivers. Inundation from the media ranging from print to Internet can saturate a market with so many messages, that many lose their meaning or become filed under the “doom and gloom-I can’t do anything to help” pile.

Is fear the best tactic or method to elicit the notion of change or empowerment? I work with an audience made up of primarily fourth graders. My field of work involves, but is not limited to waste diversion. Scaring nine year olds into believing they have no future space for their garbage in landfills is not a productive use of my time or their time. They need positive messaging to inspire them. We can be realistic without instilling fear. I want them to feel like they can make a difference, and their actions matter, despite the mistakes that may have been made in the past. Children need safety, guidance, support and leadership. Is scaring them really and truly going to inspire change or understanding?

I hope that we as Environmental Educators can move beyond the doom and gloom messaging, not only for kids but for adults as well. Is it fair to assume that adults don’t need the same requirements as their younger counterparts? No, they need to some degree: safety, guidance, support and leadership…modify as required.

Fear for me is a negative. We can be honest, valid and reliable without fear. Let’s message for the environment as such.