The Journal of Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies' (TES)
Volume 5, Number 1-2, 2006

ISSN 1602-2297

Encounters between Ordinary People and
Environmental Science – A Transdisciplinary
Perspective on Environmental Literacy

Eva Heiskanen
National Consumer Research Centre, P.O. Box 5, FIN-00531 Helsinki, Finland

Abstract: The aim of the present article is to review the diff erent conceptualisations of the relation between scientifi c 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 scientifi c and everyday models are often diff erent, 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.

Keywords: Environmental literacy, public understanding, public participation, knowledge utilization, local context

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