Connector Newsletter Latest News

Science in pole position to win hearts and minds

March 21, 2024

Geoff Brooks – Board Director, Biosphere Foundation 

Many readers of Connector may be unfamiliar with the Trust Barometer, an annual survey by international PR firm, Edelman, of who we trust. As with all these surveys, the results are influenced by methodology, sampling and a bunch of other criteria but, overall, this survey generally aligns with what we intuitively feel.

In 2024, the great news for organisations like the Biosphere Foundation, which is committed to basing advocacy and priorities on scientific research, is that this year’s Trust Barometer showed that scientists (74%) are line-ball with ‘people like me’, or peers, as trusted sources of information.

 

It is a flip for those despairing of the flood of misinformation and disinformation bursting into social media streams, driven by interests vested in fossil fuels, irresponsible exploitation and land and water, or dog-whistle politics. These are advocates who seek to be regarded as ‘people like me’, those who share my beliefs, values and struggles. This lays the foundations for what social scientists refer to as echo chambers – online forums where our personal beliefs are reinforced and read back to us.

In the face of this and if the Trust Barometer is to be trusted, it says that there is a considerable proportion of the world’s population seeking truth and guidance from science. This is encouraging because it suggests that action based on science can win both community support and the future for the precious natural ecosystems within the Western Port Biosphere and beyond.

However, if science is to capitalise on this opportunity, those who practice it must understand several things:

  • Trust comes with huge expectation and responsibility;
  • Accessible language and imagery will be the keys to winning the future;
  • Science will need to prevail and endure many short-term setbacks.

Expectation and responsibility

Trust is hard-earned, but easily lost. That scientists are ranking equal with ‘people like me’ on this metric is a significant advance in itself.

There is also another truism that is often quoted in sport. Getting to the top is hard, staying on top is even harder. As trust leaders, scientists are clearly under the public scrutiny. This demands transparency and occasionally even vulnerability.

The community expects honesty and integrity from science – an objective view of the world against which to measure the fire and brimstone from those working their vested angles.

Science, especially the complexities of natural science, is imperfect. There is risk and uncertainty around mathematical models and evidence-based knowledge is not indisputable. But it is and will prove more enduring and trusted than dogma and punditry.

Science should position as the gauge against which everything else is measured and be the guiding star for laying future pathways.

Language – make it easy

Science is nuanced. For those immersed in its technical ebb and flow, this is a strength. For non-experts seeking to understand, it is a whirlpool of ideas which sucks away comprehension and belief.

Within science there are some outstanding communicators. Professor Brian Cox simplifies the way we see the universe. He translates the complexity of particle physics into fragments of digestible information made for television and live audiences.

Dr David Suzuki, another great science communicator, uses powerful and accessible language to advocate climate action. Take a look at his Foundation’s website advocacy against LNG as a transition fuel for British Columbia. Its lead articles are succinct with links to relevant science for those wanting to drill down (excuse the pun).

To achieve a share of voice equal or better than ‘people like me’, scientists need to speak like this. It makes the purpose and voice of science accessible to people unfamiliar with its rigour and discourse. It has conviction, focusing on known truths, while providing pathways to evidence for those who seek it.

Photo by: Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

Prevailing against setbacks

Anyone involved in climate and/or environmental advocacy is familiar with setbacks. Political, economic and commercial interests inevitable divert communities and activities in directions adverse to these causes. This will continue.

But trust is an invaluable asset that we must believe will yield brilliant dividends for future generations if we stay the course. Science is on an upward swing as a trusted source of truth and it is being backed by personal experiences.

Communities ravaged by climate extremes driven by increased energy within land and oceans are increasingly convinced that natural events are aligning with what science has been foretelling.

There is no more striking example than the emergence of widespread sustainable agriculture movements, with an increasing proportion of farmers understanding what indigenous communities have understood for tens of thousands of years. They are learning to nurture the land as well as their livestock and crops, even if that means returning some of it to natural habitat.

Governments and policy settings will change, but it will be communities working in partnership with and guided by science that will bring about the necessary changes to the way we live within and in harmony with nature.

Nurturing trust

The Biosphere Foundation is ramping up its efforts to advocate for climate action and the protection of the rich biodiversity that underwrote the initial establishment of the Western Port Biosphere over 20 years ago.

The 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer indicates that there is no better time for science-based advocacy to resonate with government, communities and business. We’re here to support and work in partnership with all stakeholders within the Biosphere Reserve to ensure its future as one of the premier places in Australia to live and work.

Recently, we have been on the front foot with the issue of the proposed Victorian Renewable Energy Terminal at the Port of Hastings, advocating for Western Port’s extensive Ramsar wetlands in local media, The Age and on the ABC’s news and 7:30 Report. Federal decision stopped Victoria’s offshore wind strategy in its tracks – ABC News

This has been the result of several years of uplifted advocacy activity, which leverages off and benefits from our unique association with the global UNESCO Biosphere network.

Our advocacy will always be founded on scientific evidence, which is why we and all our stakeholders should celebrate the elevation of science to one of the world’s most trusted sources of news and information.

 

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email