I’ve Been Thinking | Where did we go wrong?

Published 13 April 2018 by Keith Calder MEIANZ CEnvP, NZ Chapter Committee

Where did we ‘go wrong’?

I am dealing with two situations at the moment that are mildly related, but both coming from the same angle - not trusting environmental practitioners.

Admittedly, it might also have something to do with the fact that I work for local government, and there can be interesting suspicions from ratepayers. Even so, in both situations the works are underpinned by advice from some pretty heavy-hitting environmental consultants as well as council scientists.

Despite all of the science - history, problem situation, research, community engagement, options, preferred solution, funding, actions, communications - being available and explained, there is still a “Don’t trust the science” and “I don’t care what you say, nothing will change my mind” attitude of some. Unfortunately, a vocal minority can turn into a local cacophony of misunderstanding and concern, despite best efforts at communication.

Of course, we know that logic is never enough. Values and emotions attached to locations, activities, people, hopes and the expenditure of public money, are equally important drivers of people thinking and actions. How we acknowledge and deal with those drivers is an important part of the environmental practitioners toolkit, lest we become and are seen as simply dispassionate ‘technocrats’.

These are ‘soft-skills’ that some seem to have naturally, and others of us have to work hard on.

I am not aware of any ‘training courses’ that address such skills and prepare us to better help our customers, clients and communities understand science-based decision-making or advice. But I would be interested to hear any thoughts and ideas from EIANZ members.

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