Trust and consequences: Role of community science, perceptions, values, and environmental justice in risk communication

Risk Anal. 2022 Sep 17. doi: 10.1111/risa.14020. Online ahead of print.


Risk communication is often viewed as imparting information and perhaps as a two-way dialogue. This paper is a companion to the Greenberg piece and discusses communication from the perspective of the community. Risk communication inadequacies on the part of both “communicator” and “community members” can lead to adverse consequences and amplify environmental justice disparities. The paper suggests a transformational approach where risk communicators must learn to trust community experts and their knowledge base (and act upon it), where risk information imparted by risk communicators addresses what communities are most concerned about (as well as risk from specific chemicals or radionuclides), and where risk information and assessments address underlying issues and disparities, as well as cultural traditions (among others). Providing risk probabilities is no longer sufficient; western science may not be enough, and community and native scientific knowledge is needed. Risk communication (or information transfer) for environmental risks that are ongoing usually applies to low-income, minority communities-people living in dense inner cities, rural communities, Native American communities-or to people living near a risky facility. Communication within this context requires mutual trust, listening and respect, as well as acceptance of indigenous and community knowledge as equally valuable. Examples are given to illustrate a community perspective.

PMID:36116002 | DOI:10.1111/risa.14020

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