Many Voices, One Planet: Accounting for the past and narrating sustainable futures

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Type of Call: 
Call for Submissions
October 3, 2022

The International Environmental Communication Association (IECA) cordially invites you to the 17th biennial Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE 2023).

The conference is being hosted by the School of Communication Studies at James Madison University, located in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley in Harrisonburg, VA, USA. The conference venue offers stunning views of the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains, access to Shenandoah National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Appalachian Trail, the George Washington National Forest, the Shenandoah River, local vineyards and breweries, and a variety of historic sites commemorating the rich and tragic history of the area.

About COCE

Since 1991, COCE has been the leading global conference on environmental communication. Our conferences always have a theme, but we also welcome non-thematic submissions in all areas of environmental communication research and practice. Moreover, COCE is not a typical academic conference. The IECA exists to promote stronger collaboration between researchers, practitioners and artists working in environmental communication and COCE is one of our key forums for fostering such connections.
COCE has been hybrid since 2013 (except for 2021 which was all online). Most participants join us in-person, but remote participation is an option. COCE 2023 will include a number of attractive features that have been hallmarks of COCEs past, and will also be responsive to contemporary options for interaction (face-to-face and virtual). Specifically, COCE 2023 will include:

  • A maximum of four concurrent sessions at any given time.
  • A mix of academic and practitioner-oriented panels and workshops, as well as a graduate student pre-conference.
  • An art exhibition and possibly performances.
  • A poster session running throughout the conference.
  • Plenary sessions to bring everyone together for keynote speakers and panels.
  • Audio and/or video recordings of all sessions available to in-person and virtual participants.
  • Online spaces that facilitate interaction between in-person and virtual participants.
  • Plenty of time for informal interactions, eating together, playing together, socializing and networking.
  • Organized excursions that take advantage of the wonderful variety of historical locations in the Harrisonburg area.
  • Affordable lodging options including on-campus residence rooms and a new on-campus hotel.

COCE is larger than when it started, but it has remained a casual and friendly event where you will meet new colleagues and re-connect with those you already know. Many people count COCE as their favourite conference.

Conference Theme

This year’s conference theme, “Many Voices, One Planet: Accounting for the Past and Narrating Sustainable Futures” refers to a world that is overrun with ecological crises, situated at the nexus of imagining a planet that could be while admitting the missteps that have been. As environmental communicators, it is our responsibility to listen to and work with many voices and storylines – both past and present – to create narratives that move us closer to a more sustainable and just future for humans and more-than-humans alike.

Many voices fight for our planet: scientists raise alarms of catastrophic events; local and indigenous communities defend their land, water, and traditions; activists demand swift and equitable climate action; journalists uncover toxic industrial practices; and the more-than-human world delivers many wake-up calls. Yet other voices confuse and manipulate: corporations  promote green-washed future-narratives, anti-environmental advocates  sow misinformation and divisiveness, and individualistic billionaires  exacerbate already unsustainable consumption levels. All of these voices claim to have our world’s best interests at heart, but making sense of the noise has become challenging, amplified by new technologies and a constantly changing, heavily digitized media environment.

Narrating sustainable futures requires that we acknowledge and address the errors and injustices of the past. Places and bodies keep score of coloniality, gender discrimination, and racial violence, yet too often, these wrongs are erased from environmental discussions. Individuals, communities, and organizations have sought new ways to account for the past, from diversifying school syllabi to marching for Black Lives to offering alternative artistic representations of historical figures. Across borders and timescales, memory has served as a gateway to progress rather than an impediment, reminding us that planetary redemption cannot paper over generations of racial, gender, economic, and cultural mistreatment. Environmental justice requires social justice.

Environmental communication researchers, teachers, practitioners, and artists are well-equipped to incorporate  past memories into new visions for the future. Our community includes a diversity of knowledges, skills, and media, all of which are attuned to a specific set of voices. This conference is our opportunity to listen to and work with these many storylines – both past and present – and chart narratives that move us closer to a more sustainable and equitable future for humans and more-than-humans alike.

With this conference theme, we want to explore and experience a variety of areas of environmental communication, such as:

  • Communicating environmental futures: Reflecting on frames of futurity or imaginaries; how are these influenced by the past and in what ways can we account for and reconcile past injustices? Imagining just and sustainable futures within planetary boundaries.
  • Many voices: Who speaks and who is listening? Reflecting on ways of listening to and respecting diverse perspectives, especially minorities, indigenous perspectives, and the-more-than-human-world.
  • Storying landscapes: Environmental communicators as storytellers of change - investigating methods of storytelling, making, and changing.
  • The role of eco-cultural identities, communities, commons, participation and engagement processes in narrating sustainable futures.
  • The past and future in strategic communication, including nonprofit-communication, political communication, and education for sustainability.
  • Reflecting on and shaping media and public discourses on sustainability narratives linking past and futures.
  • Considering the ethics and norms for individual, organizational, and societal action and communication about more sustainable futures. How are these articulated and how (much) are they already “normalized”, institutionalized and operationalized?
  • Rethinking environmental "fields" in order to move forward: Reflecting on environmental scholarship and the urgent need and possibilities for multidisciplinary, cross-disciplinary work.
  • Building coalitions: Imagining the possibilities of coalitional rhetorics and organizing practices to build bridges across differences and cultures.
  • Accountability: How can the purveyors of misinformation and greenwashing be held accountable? How can individuals, organizations, institutions, and governments account for their own errors, misdeeds, and injustices?

Full submissiond details are on the conference website.