chapter  21
16 Pages

Exploring public engagement in environmental rhetoric

WithAimee Kendall Roundtree

The state of research on engaging the public using rhetoric in environmental science primarily includes large-scale reviews and surveys meant to explore the attitudes and strategies of environmental scientists and the public, as well as case studies of particular issues and problems in environmental science. Findings from these studies mostly yield categories of frames used to understand and communicate environmental science, such as moral necessity and generational accountability. These findings, when taken in aggregate, demonstrate the pragmatic value of rhetorical analysis in constructing values and common ground between professionals and the public. This chapter will use rhetorical analysis to understand the ontological and existential positions that environmental scientists and the public assume in mutual engagement. This chapter argues that the relationship between rhetorical interlocutors in this domain—namely, environmental scientist and the public—has taken on some aspects of a role reversal. The proximity of environmental science to contemporary problems in public health and political sovereignty, and the pervasiveness of the digital communication media used to disseminate messages, have made necessary an emerging public instrumentalism, as well as social verification (rather than empirical objectivity) for communicating environmental sciences.