Waterlines: Confluence and Hope through Environmental Communication

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Type of Call: 
Call for submissions
November 15, 2018

The 15th biennial Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE)
June 17-21, 2019, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Conference Theme

These are turbulent times for environmental communicators. A shared understanding of what is at stake, let alone the terms of the debates over environmental issues and conflicts, remains elusive. Moreover, the lines of communication among advocates for environmental protection, the public and policy-makers are increasingly choked with misinformation and distrust.

At the same time, global demand for energy seems insatiable. Despite significant movement towards renewable energy sources, powerful interests advance the continued and accelerated extraction of fossil fuels as well as the pollution of public discussion on social, economic and environmental concerns. This makes advancing adequate responses to climate change and other environmental issues ever more urgent and difficult.

At the heart of many such challenges is water: too little, too much, too low, too high, inaccessible, in the wrong place, or outright polluted. Water is all-important to life on Earth, a reality too often tragically at odds with how it is viewed, talked about, and treated. And despite its importance, water remains an understudied area in environmental communication. With this conference, perhaps we can change that a bit by precipitating a confluence of research and experience that will help improve our lines of communication on water.

Vancouver, and the Pacific Northwest generally, provides a fitting location for exploring the communication of water-related issues. Although often imagined as ‘ecotopia’, the region is beset with numerous environmental challenges, including rapid urbanization, deforestation, and degradation of the marine ecosystems for which the Salish Sea is famous. As the effects of climate change and development keep deepening, the region also faces increasing droughts, forest fires, freshwater contamination, floods, and rising seas.

Energy production and transportation are directly related to these issues, not only for their harmful impacts on fresh and coastal water systems, but also for their effects on climate change. Among the region's most controversial issues is the Site C dam in northern British Columbia, which is set to flood 100 km of fertile agricultural land and old-growth boreal forest to deliver expensive hydro power that may not be needed. Also notable is the Trans-Mountain pipeline expansion to carry bitumen from Alberta across the Rocky Mountains to the Port of Burnaby, in the heart of Vancouver. The project has been fiercely opposed by some local Indigenous peoples’ organizations, diverse environmental organizations, and citizens, and was recently subject to a purchase agreement by the Government of Canada.

In these contexts, environmental communicators can bring several powerful reasons for hope to the surface. We can detect a rising environmental consciousness and a growing acceptance of our connectedness to the Earth. Nations have developed goals for sustainable development that are being widely discussed. Indigenous voices, artists and young people are at the forefront of creative advocacy that is drawing the line on destructive development. Advances in both communication technology and science provide new tools to do our work. And scholars and practitioners alike continue to float fresh perspectives to help us understand and respond to the immense complexity and difficulty of communicating for and about the planet today.

We hope, then, that you will join us in Vancouver for a stimulating and provocative meeting of scholars, artists and practitioners who share a concern and a passion for environmental communication.

We welcome proposals for scholarly papers, practice reflections, panels, posters and artwork relating to all aspects of environmental communication. In particular, we encourage those that relate to the conference theme of communicating about water. We welcome a wide range of approaches, and are especially interested in Indigenous views and perspectives.

Pursuant to the IECA’s green conference policy, we will aim to minimize waste, carbon emissions and other environmental impacts as much as possible as we plan and deliver the conference at the University of British Columbia, an institution recognized for its excellence in sustainability research and practice.

Visit https://theieca.org/conference/coce-2019-vancouver for all the submission details.