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When Scientists Engage

In my last post I wrote about academics’ struggle to involve and engage members of the community.

Last month two scientists provided examples of emerging from this struggle by looking around, finding a focus important to others, and linking the science they know about with the things people care about.   NB: without the intervention of true public relations, neither example would have occurred or played out as they did.

The first was a January op-ed by Dr. Lisa Doner of Plymouth State University on the local economics of winter recreation  supporting EPA authority to curb greenhouse gas emissions.  The other was a keynote speech in front of 400 people by Dr. Cameron Wake of the University of New Hampshire on the science and impacts of climate change.

Doner’s winter recreation op-ed focused on dollars and sense in local economies, winter tourism, and celebrated a common North Country feeling: white (snow) means green (money, and food on the table). (It will be a “green” weekend for ski slopes and surrounding retailers and restaurants given today’s Nor’easter!)  The bottom line, according to Doner:

An overall increase of 5 degrees Fahrenheit in average winter temperature is all that separates relatively good and poor years for winter recreation, according to some studies. Meteorology records show us that winter temperatures in the northern part of New Hampshire has increased 3.5 degrees in the past century.

Speaking the morning after the President’s State of the Union, Dr. Wake left the confines of research to engage the audience on New Hampshire’s state and federal lawmakers. He recognized Senator Stiles (Hampton) for leading efforts to protect RGGI and save taxpayer dollars, and Senator Watters (Dover) for legislation to create the the Coastal Hazards Commission, charged with helping the state manage sea level rise. Wake commended U.S. Senator Shaheen for authoring the only energy legislation debated in the US Senate in over 5 years, and credited Senator Ayotte for not supporting coal-friendly legislation. Wake concluded by stating that the EPA as the only current option to control greenhouse gas emissions from America’s power plants.

The scientists who pull off good presentations often do because they show a little leg – humor, enthusiasm and story-telling.  For those who are not dynamic presenters (most of us), story teller Andy Goodman has an excellent publication, Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good Causes – please read it.  And contact me to learn more about the intervention of social sciences, public relations in particular, for effective climate communications.


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