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Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Environment and Communication

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Social Ecology and Sustainability".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (29 February 2024) | Viewed by 12108

Special Issue Editors


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Guest Editor
College of Human and Social Futures, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia
Interests: communication among experts and relative non-experts in relation to regional development; environmental challenges; insights from fields such as conversation analysis; anthropological study of witchdoctors; organisational change; adult learning

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Guest Editor
School of Biological Sciences, University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
Interests: agriculture and food; communicationsbiotechnology; creative arts; social media; qualitative research methods; media studies

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Guest Editor
AgResearch Ltd., Christchurch, New Zealand
Interests: anthropological study of stakeholder groups and participatory processes in resource extraction and natural resource management

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Guest Editor
School of Business, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia
Interests: de-growth; circular economy; decision-making in organizations and households in the face of significant environmental change; sustainability learning

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The journal, Sustainability, invites submissions for a Special Issue on various forms of communication and media use as they relate to environmental issues.  We are looking for transdisciplinary work, of course, whether conceptual in nature or capturing case studies of applied or action research. 

The focus is on communication that is not one way but involves contestation—or unexpected synergies—among multiple stakeholders about particular environmental problems and about related social and economic issues in neighbourhoods, regions, organisations, markets, and societies.  For example, provide a case study of interactions among ‘strange bedfellows’ in development of a city’s circular economy or tackling an emerging biosecurity problem. 

Address challenges or opportunities, such as literacy and expertise, different ways of knowing and social imaginaries, historical marginalisation by gender or social class, and procedural fairness, as well as attachment to place.  Address contexts ranging from climate change impacts to population growth, decline or migration, or look at evolving technologies for engagement. 

Submissions are welcome from a mix of fields—such as social studies of natural resources and the environment, science communication, and impact assessment.  They are also welcome from various mixtures of cultural, communication and media studies, social psychology, sociology, cultural anthropology, political economy, and organisational studies. 

Manuscripts should be drafted in order to be accessible and sensible to people outside your field and discipline.  Co-authorship with partners in other disciplines and outside universities is welcome, and articles are invited that feature ‘multiple voices’. 

Prof. Dr. Will Rifkin
Dr. Heather J. Bray
Dr. Martin Espig
Dr. Robert Perey
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • communication
  • media
  • environment
  • identity
  • culture
  • dialogue
  • transdisciplinary

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

24 pages, 13934 KiB  
Article
Developing a Participatory Process for Soil Fertility: A Case Study in an Urban Area of Italy
by Laura Criscuolo, Gloria Bordogna, Lara Barbara, Alice Benessia, Caterina Bergami, Elisa Calastri, Valentina Capocefalo, Andrea Caretto, Chiara Cavallo, Anwesha Chakraborty, Christian Colella, Laura Colucci-Gray, Stefano Crosetto, Amelia De Lazzari, Sara Di Lonardo, Enrico Ercole, Rita Giuffredi, Francesca Grasso, Valentina Grasso, Lucia Laurenza, Salvatore Mallardo, Francesco Nigro, Alessandro Oggioni, Fabio Piccolin, Flavia Pizzi, Beatrice Serini, Raffaella Spagna, Giorgio A. Ubbiali, Pompilio Vergine and Alba L’Astorinaadd Show full author list remove Hide full author list
Sustainability 2024, 16(12), 4882; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16124882 - 7 Jun 2024
Viewed by 834
Abstract
Approaches that are transdisciplinary and participatory can help to address complex socio-ecological issues by integrating multiple disciplinary perspectives while taking into account the different needs and experiences of community members and other stakeholders. Despite this promise, such approaches are rarely applied within the [...] Read more.
Approaches that are transdisciplinary and participatory can help to address complex socio-ecological issues by integrating multiple disciplinary perspectives while taking into account the different needs and experiences of community members and other stakeholders. Despite this promise, such approaches are rarely applied within the scientific community, as researchers and public actors often lack the training, practice and reference cases required to handle the working relationships and translations of terminology, ideas and values across multiple bodies of knowledge. A case study described in this manuscript depicts a group of researchers, artists and citizens consciously engaged in the construction of a transdisciplinary process as part of a 40-day ‘citizen science’ experiment focussed on assessing soil fertility in the urban area of Milan, Italy. The group drew from recognised scientific approaches, applied agronomic methodologies, artistic practices and technological tools, integrating them into a hybrid process of collective and participatory inquiry. As a quantitative outcome of the experiment, a dataset of bio-chemical parameters was generated, which was enriched by agronomic interpretations but also by artistic and reflective materials. Importantly, the process developed transdisciplinary and participatory skills, as it created a potentially replicable procedure of engagement, analysis and presentation for use in other citizen science settings. This article presents the context, the multiple objectives of the research and the applied approach and its timeline. Described in detail are the process of designing and conducting the experiment by involving an extended research community—including both junior and senior researchers—in progressive steps. Quantitative and qualitative results are provided. The findings are meant to contribute case material and methods to inform the advancement of transdisciplinary research approaches within the scientific community as well as examples of ways to transcend the boundaries of science to include artists and community stakeholders. The aspiration is to inform and inspire concrete application of transdisciplinary and participatory methods in concert to address complex socio-environmental challenges. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Environment and Communication)
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22 pages, 2305 KiB  
Article
Perceptions of Sustainability among Children and Teachers: Problems Revealed via the Lenses of Science Communication and Transformative Learning
by Sevinç Gelmez Burakgazi and Michael J. Reiss
Sustainability 2024, 16(11), 4742; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16114742 - 2 Jun 2024
Viewed by 422
Abstract
Scholars and policymakers see sustainability as depending on the inter-relationships between the three pillars of the environment, society, and the economy. However, it remains less clear how key stakeholders with a responsibility for educating the next generation perceive the concept of sustainability and [...] Read more.
Scholars and policymakers see sustainability as depending on the inter-relationships between the three pillars of the environment, society, and the economy. However, it remains less clear how key stakeholders with a responsibility for educating the next generation perceive the concept of sustainability and act accordingly. In order to gain new insights, this research scrutinises participant perceptions of sustainability and climate change in two eco-schools in England for primary children (aged 5–11 years). Our case study involved individual interviews with classroom teachers and headteachers, group interviews with fourth- and fifth-year students (ages 10–12 years), and in-class observations. We also analysed data from student exercise books and photographs of school grounds to understand participants’ self-reported knowledge and perceptions of sustainability and climate change. Within a framework drawing on theories of science communication and transformative learning (a learning approach based on having challenging experiences), the results show that the integration of sustainability into the curriculum was limited and problematic. That is despite the fact that all students and teachers were aware of the environmental dimensions of sustainability, such as climate change and the overuse of natural sources. These findings suggest that schools are no different to other institutional settings when it comes to dealing with the challenges of integrating sustainability into daily practice. We conclude that there is a need for in-service teacher education programmes to enable and motivate teachers to provide richer teaching-learning environments so as to enable effective learning in schools about sustainability and climate change. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Environment and Communication)
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18 pages, 863 KiB  
Article
Dialogue and Disruption at the Doorstep: Participant Perceptions during a City Walk as a Climate Communication Format
by Elisabeth Hartmann, Katrin Geneuss and Imke Hoppe
Sustainability 2024, 16(11), 4490; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16114490 - 25 May 2024
Viewed by 844
Abstract
Since there is a broad empirical consensus that linear science communication focusing on disaster framing rarely empowers audiences and prompts transformative action, alternative climate communication formats are needed. This paper explores an alternative climate communication format, which integrates the issue into a local [...] Read more.
Since there is a broad empirical consensus that linear science communication focusing on disaster framing rarely empowers audiences and prompts transformative action, alternative climate communication formats are needed. This paper explores an alternative climate communication format, which integrates the issue into a local context (Munich, Germany) via transdisciplinary cooperation, specifically through collaboration with local climate educators and tapping into the scientific expertise of local stakeholders. The conceptualized format of a City Walk on the subject of climate justice addresses urban citizens and tests the effectiveness of climate justice as an alternative framing. Drawing on an accompanying empirical study with qualitative group discussions (n = 14, October 2023), this article explores how the format and framing are perceived by the participants. Based on these findings, we discuss the potentials and pitfalls of the format for transdisciplinary science communication. In summary, the City Walk deepened participants’ understanding of local climate justice—that is to say, how heat and flooding could amplify existing inequalities, and why adaptation and mitigation measures have not yet been implemented more thoroughly. Here, the crucial point is not whether the shift from climate change being a general topic to a personal one is supported by technical aspects of communication (e.g., virtual simulations). However, perceived local climate justice barriers (like bureaucracy) led participants to prioritize individual action (‘footprint’) over collective action (e.g., addressing local change). With these results, this study underlines the importance of new transdisciplinary formats for climate communication to address local change. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Environment and Communication)
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28 pages, 1616 KiB  
Article
Exogenous, Endogenous, and Peripheral Actors: A Situational Analysis of Stakeholder Inclusion within Transboundary Water Governance
by Hannah Whitley
Sustainability 2024, 16(9), 3647; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16093647 - 26 Apr 2024
Viewed by 870
Abstract
Transboundary water governance involves collaborative decision-making across geopolitical boundaries to manage shared water resources sustainably. While this approach integrates public, private, and community efforts, little scrutiny has been directed toward the involvement of non-institutionally affiliated stakeholders. This study critically examines stakeholder participation in [...] Read more.
Transboundary water governance involves collaborative decision-making across geopolitical boundaries to manage shared water resources sustainably. While this approach integrates public, private, and community efforts, little scrutiny has been directed toward the involvement of non-institutionally affiliated stakeholders. This study critically examines stakeholder participation in Upper Klamath Basin water governance by investigating how deficiencies in stakeholder inclusion impede transboundary water management processes by favoring institutionally affiliated actors. Findings reveal the differential influence of “endogenous” (directly involved), “exogenous” (indirectly involved), and “peripheral” (limited engagement and influence) actors. While endogenous and exogenous actors have formal or informal ties to institutions, peripheral actors lack institutional affiliation(s), making it difficult for them to participate in and ultimately influence water governance decision-making processes. Their limited access to financial, natural, and social capital further restricts their engagement with governance efforts. This imbalance underscores challenges to equity and inclusion in transboundary water governance processes. Addressing the exclusion of peripheral actors from transboundary water governance requires that governance institutions prioritize equity and inclusivity, fostering transparency, incentivizing inclusive practices, and comparing engagement processes to enhance effectiveness and equity in transboundary water management. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Environment and Communication)
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19 pages, 265 KiB  
Article
Addressing Epistemic Injustice: Engaging Children as Environmental Communicators to Support the Long-Term Sustainability of Forest Ecosystems
by Marie McEntee, Kat Thomas, Molly Mullen, Christina Houghton, Mark Harvey and Ariane Craig-Smith
Sustainability 2024, 16(8), 3124; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16083124 - 9 Apr 2024
Viewed by 845
Abstract
Closure of a forest for biosecurity purposes led to the marginalisation and disconnection of Year 6 children from a local forest of significance to them in Aotearoa, New Zealand. The marginalisation of children’s voices and concomitantly of their knowledge, ideas, and values from [...] Read more.
Closure of a forest for biosecurity purposes led to the marginalisation and disconnection of Year 6 children from a local forest of significance to them in Aotearoa, New Zealand. The marginalisation of children’s voices and concomitantly of their knowledge, ideas, and values from environmental issues can be viewed as an example of epistemic injustice, which manifests widely in the environmental area, particularly in relation to marginalised groups. To counter this marginalisation and promote epistemic justice, we explored how the creative arts involving a child-driven environmental communication project could foster children’s sense of agency by supporting the protection of a local forest affected by a tree disease. We show that the creative arts could facilitate the children’s meaningful engagement in environmental issues in a learning environment that fostered child-centric approaches that enabled children to express their visions for sustainable futures in distinctly unique ways that were relevant to them. Furthermore, enabling the children to participate as environmental communicators re-established their relationship with their local forest and re-balanced the power structures that had led to the children’s sense of marginalisation. The insights on how this child-centred relational approach can promote epistemic justice and provide a meaningful contribution to the long-term sustainable management of forest ecosystems has implications for other marginalised groups. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Environment and Communication)
27 pages, 3290 KiB  
Article
Elite Speech about Climate Change: Analysis of Sentiment from the United Nations Conference of Parties, 1995–2021
by Andrea Mah and Eunkyung Song
Sustainability 2024, 16(7), 2779; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16072779 - 27 Mar 2024
Viewed by 800
Abstract
The Conference of Parties (COP) is the longest running forum for international discussion of climate change and offers rich data in the form of speeches. Studying how elites have historically communicated about climate change can help us understand their approaches to address climate [...] Read more.
The Conference of Parties (COP) is the longest running forum for international discussion of climate change and offers rich data in the form of speeches. Studying how elites have historically communicated about climate change can help us understand their approaches to address climate change. In this study, we analyzed 2493 COP statements from 1995 to 2021 to describe how sentiment is used, and to see whether specific issues associated with climate policy (adaptation, mitigation, financing, development, disasters) are discussed in particular sentiment contexts. Quantitative analysis (sentiment analysis with multi-level modelling) revealed that leaders expressed high levels of positive sentiment in these diplomatic statements, but also some negative sentiment. Over time, representatives at COP used more positive, angry, and fearful sentiments in speeches. Representatives of wealthier and more developed countries expressed themselves differently than those from less wealthy and developing countries. To examine sentiment surrounding policy issues we used embedding regression. Countries expressed different sentiments about adaptation, mitigation, and development depending on their development status, and about disasters depending on their wealth. Shifts in sentiment over time were observed when results were plotted graphically, and these shifts may be related to specific events and agreements. Using these two approaches, we highlight how those with the power to make top-down changes to address climate change have historically talked about this issue. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Environment and Communication)
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22 pages, 1759 KiB  
Article
Identifying Different Semantic Features of Public Engagement with Climate Change NGOs Using Semantic Network Analysis
by Eugene Kim and Noriko Hara
Sustainability 2024, 16(4), 1438; https://doi.org/10.3390/su16041438 - 8 Feb 2024
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1004
Abstract
Social media platforms have revolutionized the engagement between climate non-governmental organizations (hereafter, NGOs) and their publics on climate issues. This research diverges from the traditional use of metrics like retweets and likes as simple indicators of identical success in ‘one-way’ climate communication. Instead, [...] Read more.
Social media platforms have revolutionized the engagement between climate non-governmental organizations (hereafter, NGOs) and their publics on climate issues. This research diverges from the traditional use of metrics like retweets and likes as simple indicators of identical success in ‘one-way’ climate communication. Instead, it underscores ‘two-way’ interactions and their connections that may vary by specific public engagement features, such as popularity, commitment, and virality. Using semantic network analysis, we analyzed tweets and replies between high-engagement NGOs and their publics, identifying communication patterns tied to particular types of public engagement. Additionally, we investigated shared meanings in these interactions with semantic similarity metrics and assessed sentiment alignment between NGOs and their publics as potential indicators of public engagement. Our findings suggest that climate NGOs should select resonating topics, ensuring their sentiments align with those of their publics. It’s also essential to tailor topics and focus points in climate communication strategies to reflect desired types of public engagement. This study offers insights into optimizing communication and engagement strategies for climate NGOs on social media. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Environment and Communication)
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21 pages, 1126 KiB  
Article
Perceptions of Urban Community Resilience: Beyond Disaster Recovery in the Face of Climate Change
by Felix N. Fernando, Meg Maloney and Lauren Tappel
Sustainability 2023, 15(19), 14543; https://doi.org/10.3390/su151914543 - 7 Oct 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1255
Abstract
Resilience of human systems has increasingly become a popular topic of research. The aim of this article is to present a juxtaposition of public officials’ and residents’ perceptions of community resilience along the three-class typology of resilience (basic, adaptive, and transformative) using Dayton, [...] Read more.
Resilience of human systems has increasingly become a popular topic of research. The aim of this article is to present a juxtaposition of public officials’ and residents’ perceptions of community resilience along the three-class typology of resilience (basic, adaptive, and transformative) using Dayton, OH as a case study. A two-pronged data collection approach was designed to recruit public officials and residents. This approach was structured using the Community Capitals Framework. A multi-chain referral sampling process (and subsequent snowball sampling) was initiated subsequently. The data were gathered through semi-structured interviews with 75 participants. The interviews were analyzed using a three-tiered deductive structural coding approach. The findings highlight the similarities and differences in resilience perceptions between public officials and community members along the three-class typology of resilience that could inform creative policy initiatives. The factors that might undergird residents’ and public officials’ perceptions of resilience are discussed. Based on these perceptions, the importance of social capital, communication infrastructure, and addressing chronic stressors are discussed as important strategies to build community resilience, in addition to focusing on essential community infrastructure systems (such as roads, energy, water, sewer, and gas systems). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Environment and Communication)
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21 pages, 305 KiB  
Article
Your Sustainability Is Not My Sustainability: In-between Spaces for Meaningful Collaboration between Local Stakeholders and Planning Professionals to Construct Congruent Frames over Contested Meanings
by Selina Abraham
Sustainability 2023, 15(19), 14179; https://doi.org/10.3390/su151914179 - 25 Sep 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1100
Abstract
Urban sustainability is a highly contested topic because the challenges of sustaining urban ecosystems are interlinked with environmental justice and equity concerns. In urban planning processes, this requires more collaboration between professionals and local stakeholders (citizens and entrepreneurs). Yet, participatory processes in urban [...] Read more.
Urban sustainability is a highly contested topic because the challenges of sustaining urban ecosystems are interlinked with environmental justice and equity concerns. In urban planning processes, this requires more collaboration between professionals and local stakeholders (citizens and entrepreneurs). Yet, participatory processes in urban planning are strained with various challenges. This article suggests that in order to consciously shape communication for meaningful collaboration, it should be studied as a function of communication spaces, termed “in-between spaces”. These so-called in-between spaces are studied through the comparative analysis of two such spaces in the same brownfield redevelopment project in Amsterdam. The first space was created by an instrumental participatory process and the second through a co-creative approach. The spaces were studied through desk study and action research. The results indicated that fuzzier boundaries of in-between spaces and methodological plurality are needed for creating new congruent meanings, creating inter-dependencies between actors, and potentially fostering transformative learning, needed for sustainable urban development. Secondly, this article offers grounded insights into the contested interpretations of sustainable development between different sets of actors and identifies the potential of well-designed in-between spaces to make these tensions constructive. Lastly, this article highlights the diverse use of phronetic management (wisdom or ‘mindfulness’ in learning and leading attitudes for pragmatic action) by actors and the use of visual and creative methods for creating congruent meaning between actors, provided that local stakeholders feel ownership over the creative process and resulting output. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Environment and Communication)
15 pages, 307 KiB  
Article
Advocacy, Ecotourism, and Biopolitics of Whale Conservation in Ecuador
by Bradley Tatar
Sustainability 2023, 15(15), 11608; https://doi.org/10.3390/su151511608 - 27 Jul 2023
Viewed by 1478
Abstract
Whale-watching tourism in Ecuador thrives through the spectacular image of a flagship species, the humpback whale. Seemingly, it is an example of an industry regulated and managed in accordance with sustainable principles of nature conservation, thanks to the work of Ecuadorian scientists who [...] Read more.
Whale-watching tourism in Ecuador thrives through the spectacular image of a flagship species, the humpback whale. Seemingly, it is an example of an industry regulated and managed in accordance with sustainable principles of nature conservation, thanks to the work of Ecuadorian scientists who advocate for policies to protect whales from harmful exploitation. However, does the use of the whale as an icon of conservation result in its utilization as a mere commodity for profit? Through ethnographic fieldwork including interviews, observations, and textual analysis, it is shown that the Ecuadorian practices of whale conservation have resulted in the whale becoming a subject of governance, by which the wild animals are recognized as entities worthy of ethical treatment. Using the humpback whale as a flagship species, the Ecuadorian scientists practice biopolitics through the strategies of categorizing, monitoring, and regulating human interactions with the whale population. The success of this approach to wildlife governance highlights the role of NGO-affiliated scientists as knowledge producers and policy advocates. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Environment and Communication)
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