I am sitting in a bagel shop in Boulder CO on a Saturday morning in June, having coffee and and a bagel, waiting for today's session of the 2015 Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE). I expect that today, day three of the conference, will go as smoothly and be as inspiring as the first two days. Kudos to the conference planners, as well as the International Environmental Communication Association as coordinating body.
I wanted to take a moment today to address IECA members, whether you are attending the COCE conference, perhaps for the first time, or are following via live streaming, or are spending today at home.
Here is my simple message for today: Say "yes."
COCE started in 1991 because a group of people believed in the need for a gathering of scholars and practitioners to share research and other ideas about the emerging area of environmental communication. COCE 1991 begat COCE 1993. . . .and so on. Over the past two-decades-plus, COCE has been a significant catalyst to propel the field forward, encouraging connections and community among folks in the U. S. and around the world. The folks who started COCE asked themselves, and each other, should we do this? And they said "yes."
Similarly, the IECA started in 2011 after a three-year journey of discussion and planning among a group of people in the U. S., Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Malaysia, Brazil, and a host of other countries. Those early planners reached out to colleagues, some of whom they did not even know, and asked for their support to start a new venture, a professional association with the goal of bridging divides between scholar and activist and distances across continents in order to promote ethical environmental communication practice and disseminate the latest scholarship.
One quick story: In November 2008, I travelled from the National Communication (NCA) conference in San Diego to the European Communication Research and Education Association (ECREA) in Barcelona to participate in back-to-back panels on the question of whether we should start an international organization. Among the people I met were Anabela Carvalho, Julie Doyle, and Alison Anderson, European scholars who had recently helped to start a Science and Environment Communication interest group in ECREA. Alison was on the discussion panel with me. I still remember when Alison concluded her presentation with a statement of "yes, we need to move forward on this idea." Our other new friends joined hands with us on the venture. Soon, others back in the U. S. said "yes" as well. And IECA took shape, and then took flight. By the summer of 2011, 300 people from 30 countries had said "yes," and became founding members. Mark Meisner took a leap of faith and agreed to serve as the first Executive Director. Ten brave souls said "yes" to serving on the first Executive Board. Some of these charter Board members (Anders Hansen, Anabela Carvalho, Julie Doyle) are rotating off after four years of service. Thanks to you for saying "yes."
So--we are here at COCE 2015, with the environmental communication field stronger than ever, and more needed than ever. I look forward to the next two years of IECA leadership under another charter IECA board member, Soenke Lorenzen from Greenpeace. Good luck to Soenke, incoming vice-chair Richard Doherty, and other IECA board members, returning and new.
Back to my message: say "yes." When you are asked to participate or serve, whether in a professional organization like IECA or an enviromental community-based organization with a cause that is close to your heart, give yourself permission to get involved. And--if you have a new idea--like a COCE conference or a new organization like IECA--share that idea with others, let folks know where your heart is, your passion, your commitment. And who knows? They may say "yes" to you, too.
Back to my bagel and coffee. Have a great conference, a wonderful summer, and a productive year ahead!