Journal article: Finding shared meaning in the Anthropocene. Engaging diverse perspectives on climate change
In this paper Gail Hochachka explores an approach through which we might find shared meaning at the interface of individual and collective views about climate change. She takes us to Guatemala and describes how coffee producers reflected first on their own climate meanings and then engaged in a meaning-making process with other actors in the coffee value chain.
How climate change is understood is so diverse yet we seem to assume that there is a singular sense of climate change and that this comes from science. This assumption is neither effective nor ethical, and it creates frictions between different views, and hampers engagement and climate action.
Read the open access journal article here.
Up till now climate policy has tried to create a singular view by translating and sharing climate science with lay people using the ‘information deficit model’. However, there isn’t one view or sense of climate change – there is a plurality of them. The challenge is to find shared meaning between these different views without “getting stuck in the cul-de-sacs of epistemological relativism and post-truth politics” (Hochachka 2021 p. 1). In this article Gail Hochacka develops and tests a conceptual framework that explains five reasons why individual and collective meaning making is challenged by climate change before using this to inform the use of photo voice as a method to overcome some of these meaning making challenges.
Carrying out this research amongst participants in a coffee cooperative in Guatemala she found that what is needed to advance climate engagement is a psychosocial approach.
“The psychosocial application of photo voice in this study provided a space in which people shared their individual constructions of meaning about climate change, and the group overtly acknowledged that range of meanings, pinned across two walls of the meeting room. Within that, participants found the ‘center,’ a set of common themes, which did not serve to erase the other meanings but rather found their overlap” (Hochachka 2021 p. 18).
These types of methods can enable people to see all the meaning-systems and ask questions such as “in what way is this perspective true (even if it is also partial)? (2021 p. 18) Which might assist in finding the place of this perspective within the understanding of the whole group.
These types of frameworks and methods that recognize the plasticity of views on climate change is essential for increasing the effectiveness of climate action and also how ethical transformation processes are given that diverse viewpoints are heard, discussed, and collated into shared understandings.