environment

“Dioxins are the easiest topic to mention”: Resident activists’ construction of knowledge about low-level exposure to toxic chemicals

Nina Blom Andersen

This article discusses how residents in a local area contributed to the construction of knowledge in regard to scientific assessments in relation to a fire in a storage dump of burnable waste. Building on analytical concepts primarily from Social Worlds theory as well as some concepts from Actor–Network Theory, the analysis shows how dissent and a number of scientific controversies were initiated by some residents living nearby the waste dump who proved to be excellent network builders and who built a number of alliances with media and independent scientists, thus questioning the authorities’ and their experts’ legitimacy. Furthermore, the situated analysis identifies how a few persons—not very organized—were able to create a debate about scientific matters using their combined resources and strong alliance-building abilities, thus proving that in some cases there is no need for a higher level of organization.

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Assessing the quality of a deliberative democracy mini-public event about advanced biofuel production and development in Canada

Holly Longstaff, David M Secko

The importance of evaluating deliberative public engagement events is well recognized, but such activities are rarely conducted for a variety of theoretical, political and practical reasons. In this article, we provide an assessment of the criteria presented in the 2008 National Research Council report on Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and Decision Making (NRC report) as explicit indicators of quality for the 2012 ‘Advanced Biofuels’ deliberative democracy event. The National Research Council’s criteria were selected to evaluate this event because they are decision oriented, are the products of an exhaustive review of similar past events, are intended specifically for environmental processes and encompass many of the criteria presented in other evaluation frameworks. It is our hope that the results of our study may encourage others to employ and assess the National Research Council’s criteria as a generalizable benchmark that may justifiably be used in forthcoming deliberative events exploring different topics with different audiences.

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How did the fracking controversy emerge in the period 2010-2012?

Allan Mazur

In 2010-2012, the controversy over fracking grew rapidly, first in the United States, and then internationally. An important step was the anti-fracking documentary film Gasland. With help from celebrity sources, the film was produced and won a prize at the Sundance Film Festival by early 2010 and had an Oscar nomination by early 2011, in the meantime popularizing potent images of hazard including tainted aquifers and ignitable water running from kitchen faucets. During this period, major US news organizations paid little attention to the issue. The offshore Deepwater Horizon disaster of April 2010 spurred The New York Times to prolific reporting on potential risks of the new onshore technique for extracting shale gas. With flagship news coverage, the controversy had by 2012 gained wide media attention that evoked public concern and opposition, spreading from the United States to other nations.

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“Dye in the Water” – A Visual Approach to Communicating the Rip Current Hazard

Robert W. Brander, Danielle Drozdzewski, Dale Dominey-Howes (SC)

Many beaches are characterized by rip currents—strong, narrow flows that can quickly carry bathers offshore, often against their will. However, despite long-standing efforts at community education and awareness strategies, people continue to drown in rip currents at high rates. Here we describe a simple, but powerful visual-based risk communication approach involving imagery associated with releases of colored dye into rip currents that has been used as an outreach tool with success in Australia. This approach has the potential to transcend limitations of traditional education approaches and bring the rip current hazard to life for a largely unaware public.

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