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Communicating Nature Conservation Lessons to learn from Environmental, Risk, and Science Communication. Study trip to Benediktbeuern, Germany “Geoinformatics breaking new ground” 11 March 2009.

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Communicating Nature Conservation

Lessons to learn from Environmental, Risk, and Science Communication

Study trip to Benediktbeuern,Germany

“Geoinformatics breaking new ground”

11 March 2009


Nature conservation and social science

Potential contributions of behavioral and social sciences have been underestimated for a long time.

It is only from the beginning of the 1990ies that approaches of social sciences became more important – e.g. by ways of analysing and improving the acceptance for nature conservation measures.

Apart from some singular approaches, the role of media has been neglected, too.

Nature conservation and social science


Nature conservation and social science1

Nature conservation relies on „objective“ (better: inter-subjective) scientific findings of ecology,

but it is also based on subjective societal values and normative orientations.

Therefore, objectives formulated solely on the basis of nature conservation cannot have any effect by themselves.

Nature conservationand social science


In fact nature conservation primarily is

a social, inter-subjective) scientific findings of ecology,

political,

and communicative task.

As a consequence,

nature conservation‘s success is mainly based on the discourse between people of (different) societal (sub-)systems.

In fact, nature conservation primarily is …


Environmental communication

Environmental communication has become an inter-subjective) scientific findings of ecology, everyday-life issue:

Every kind of communication about environmental states, development or policy can be understood as EC

Possibility of actively shaping and optimisation is a constitutive feature (can be process control of single actions – addressed to society or specific groups of persons)

Environmental communication is a key element of environmental policy

Not only on the governmental level

also encompassing all efforts and approaches of society as a whole to cope with ecological challenges and to shape a sustainable future

Basic orientations of Environmental communication actors

Problem orientation

Action orientation

Empowerment orientation

Environmental communication


Risk communication

Risk communication in the inter-subjective) scientific findings of ecology, classical sense:

Experts (scientists) giving bits of (factual/scientific) knowledge to laypersons – the „normal“ citizen – to give them the insight to „certain necessities“

Step by step a broader approach evolved (similar to EC)

Risk communication encompasses all the permanent communication about man-made health and environmental risks – from printed health warning on cigarette boxes to a TV-report about global climate change

BUT: Simple information about risks may threaten peoples‘ well-being and block their motivation for behavioral changes!

Resource communication shows ways of developing individual (personal resources) or collective (societal resources) competencies for action to actively face the loss of control in environmental and health risks)

Risk communication


Science communication

Science is predominantly communicating with itself inter-subjective) scientific findings of ecology,

This led to „hurdles of understanding“ – making a communication between science and the public more and more difficult

The legitimy of science, the quality of scientific achievements and its reliability face a growing ambivalence of new knowledge and/or the risks of technical developments and scientific research (e.g. nuclear energy, genetic engineering).

Science has the role of having a critical look on problem perception of the public. That could either mean to sensibilize itself for selected problems or to relativate and in case also modificate established ways of already existing problem perception

This function can be regarded as the central interface of science and society.

Science communication





Nature conservation s medial non effect

The non-effect scenario is always likely to happen, when communication (2)

a lot of actors are part of certain problem constellations

the problems are of high complexity and/or show multivaried cause-and-effect relations

As a matter of fact, these are exactly the problems, that nature conservation deals with in most cases.

Of course, that doesn‘t make things too easy for nature conservation to play a role „in the media“.

Nature conservation‘s medial „non-effect“


Ways for effective nc communication

precise definition of goals and strategies with adequate target group orientation

from endangerment scenarios to resource communication

more emphasis on the cultural dimension of both problems and solutions

education for NC actors: anticipation, coping uncertainty

better co-ordination of actors within the NC-scene

offering new ways of participation for interested people

Ways for effective NC communication


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