Encounters between ordinary people and environmental science – a transdisciplinary perspective on environmental literacy

  • Heiskanen E
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Abstract

The aim of the present article is to review the different conceptualisations of the relation between scientific knowledge and everyday life from a fairly practical angle – aiming toward a reformulation of “public understanding” that is more empowering for ordinary people, yet maintaining the valuable ethos of the environmental literacy movement. On the basis of this review, the author reformulates the problem of public understanding, and makes some practical suggestions. Because the context of the ordinary person is unique, and requires knowledge from many diff erent disciplines and walks of life, ordinary people need capabilities to make sense of expert knowledge. Because scientific and everyday models are often different, both scientists and ordinary people need to develop sophistication in recognizing the presence of such models in all knowledge claims. Most importantly, recognizing the diff erence between universal and local contexts provides science communicators and those receiving these communications the ability to contextualise the knowledge, and allows for a fruitful and transdisciplinary dialogue between locally-relevant and universalist claims.

Author-supplied keywords

  • environmental literacy
  • knowledge utilization
  • public participation
  • public understanding

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Authors

  • Eva Heiskanen

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