Emily Polk, (Program in Writing and Rhetoric, Stanford University), will give a talk entitled "Communicating Diversity in Environmental Movements: A Case Study of the Transition Town Movement." This is the second event in USF's Junior Scholar Speaking Series, which brings junior faculty from around the Bay Area to USF to present their work on social justice issues.
Abstract: Although current research indicates that climate change and unsustainable environmental practices have the most negative impact on vulnerable populations, particularly the poor, environmental movement(s) are largely perceived to be run by and for upper class, white people. The Transition Town movement presents a unique site for analysis regarding this paradox because it does not focus on an environmental issue, per se, but rhetorically positions itself as a participatory, community-led movement toward local resiliency. There are currently more than 2000 Transition towns in 35 countries that are using the model to transition away from their dependency on peak oil to create alternative food systems, economies, transportation and education in their towns. Findings from ethnographic research indicate that although the Transition town movement continues to grow at a rapid rate, the demographic of participants is consistent with perceptions of the demographic of the environmental movement in general. Findings also suggest that rhetorical strategies employed by the movement may be unintentionally alienating to some members of a community. A shift in communication practices might support the movement’s mission to engage with a more diverse range of community members, and ultimately make the movement more sustainable.