Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Of Scientists and Activists

I have just started working on a European project which recently launched to empower community organisations and improve collaborative research on environmental problems. It is funded by the European Commission and involves countries throughout Europe, the African continent, Asia and South America. I'm always interested in helping the world's citizens become aware of environmental issues and help those prepared to stand up and do something about it.

Many organisations locally or globally are involved in conflicts over resource extraction or waste disposal. Such conflicts are increasing in number as the world economy uses more materials and energy. These organisations focus on the link between the need for environmental security and the defence of basic human rights. The  project unites a consortium of international members to promote mutual learning and collaboration among stakeholders who make use of Sustainability Sciences.

A primary goal of this project is to empower  small organisations and the communities they support that receive an unfair share of environmental burdens to defend or reclaim their rights.

Throughout this project, scientists and activists share knowledge and support each other through training, the use of best practices and policy recommendations. They do this by building on the activists' knowledge of environmental risks and legal mechanisms and the translation of their research findings into the policy arena. In the process, the project enriches the sustainability sciences through the accumulated knowledge of the activists which leads to enhanced application of these sciences to real-life policy questions.

My particular role in this project is to assist with providing communications advice and produce online materials for training and teaching. I'm keen to help with the communications stuff because that's my field of expertise and experience but I'm not in charge of it and already I feel frustration and disappointment because some involved don't want to be professional about the tasks required. Ignorance and mediocrity are enemies of effectiveness and success but there's little I can do about that. In the meantime I'll contribute what I can (most of the comms plan)and focus on what my boss wants me to do with the training materials.

It is a good opportunity to learn about the serious issues facing communities and our environment and to be part of a European project. Hopefully I can stay with this for the next few years but that will require me to have a new contract. Fingers crossed for that.


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