The 17th Conference on Communication and Environment gathered researchers, practitioners, artists, and activists in Harrisonburg, Virginia

June 29, 2023
Esther Marín
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Many Voices, One Planet: Accounting for the past and narrating sustainable futures”. The biennial conference organized by the International Environmental Communication Association (IECA) in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, VA, USA.

A worldwide community of environmental communicators, practitioners, artists, and activists joined, in-person or remotely, the 17th edition of the Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE 2023) in the first week of June 2023. For one week, more than 200 participants had the opportunity to share their projects and discuss how research and action can support effective ways to communicate about environmental issues.

A multitude of perspectives, one same objective 

Many voices from all continents raise concerns about the future of our planet and our survival on it, our fragile relationship with ecosystems, non-human animals and more-than-human entities, and the challenge (and opportunity) we have (still) to build a more just and equitable future. The COCE 2023 conference addressed the issue of diversity and inclusion and reconsidered the need to reconcile past and present injustices to create new narratives for a more just and sustainable future for all. 

On the planet, many voices seek to guide conversations about current and future environmental pressures, while others struggle to be heard. The conference featured perspectives from scholars and practitioners from both the Global North and the Global South, with a panel dedicated to African Communication Studies and Environmental Communication. The various panels, presentations and roundtables also reflected the rich diversity of perspectives that environmental communication scholars and practitioners hold. The topics covered numerous aspects of environmental communication, ranging from the world of research to best practices.

To name a few, they discussed disinformation and accountability in climate communication, climate policy and governance, innovative formats such as virtual reality and other forms of visual communication, media studies and science journalism, education, participatory approaches and engagement in environmental communication research, audience research, the use of narratives, frames and emotions, and art and activism. 

An art exhibition, excursions, and other social events

Networking is one of the reasons to attend any conference and the organisers of COCE 2023 took it very seriously. Indeed, the conference programme offered a multitude of opportunities to foster interaction among participants. From a daily breakfast and lunch at the venue, to a pre-conference workshop, to an opening reception with the artists and keynote speaker Dr Alexa Sutton Lawrence, to a conference dinner open to all participants and to which professor and nature photographer Steven David Johnson was invited as a speaker, to several excursions to discover the region's natural and cultural heritage, and finally even a pub crawl. Participants had many opportunities to meet other colleagues in informal contexts and to build a stronger sense of community. Indeed, the friendly and informal atmosphere deeply facilitated these encounters and provided the perfect setting for mutual learning.

ENJOI research was presented at the conference

"Building stories about the present and future climate change impacts: from polar bears to taking action": this is the title of the poster presented by researcher Esther Marín-González (FC.ID, cE3c/Ciências.ULisboa). A research (still in progress) conducted by ENJOI's Portuguese partners, which aims to characterise the way content producers in Spain engage audiences with climate change stories in different social media channels, identifying the narratives, storytelling features and proposed solutions to mitigate and adapt to the current and future impacts of climate change.

Conference website:
Twitter: @The_IECA and #COCE2023

Pictures: The IECA and Deirdre Murphy (deirdremurphyart)

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