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      Communicating climate change and biodiversity loss with local populations: Exploring communicative utopias in eight transdisciplinary case studies

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      UCL Open: Environment Preprint
      UCL Press
      transdisciplinary communication, climate change, biodiversity loss, knowledge co-production, postcolonial moments, local communities, local knowledge, People and their environment, Environmental policy and practice, Environmental justice and inequality/inequity, Climate change, Sustainable development, Biodiversity
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            Revision notes

            Dear reviewers, dear editor,

            We are indebted to you for the kind, reflective, and nonetheless very critical comments on our manuscript. We have thoroughly revised the manuscript. Particularly, we added new references, additional explanations and footnotes to cover the crucial debates highlighted in the comments, and restricted the manuscript to add three new tables that provide convey a better picture of the case studies. The table below contains point-by-point answers to each comment.

            Sincerely,
            The authors

            Editor

             

            This is an interesting attempt to extract meaning from a set of completed case studies. The a posteriori nature of the study present some challenges and I hope these comments help deal with those.

            Thanks for your kind words. We are convinced that the a posteriori nature of our data aligns with a quasi-experimental approach - though case study choice and other factors certainly pose a challenge. We will gladly address them by working on your further comments.

            1. The author's attention has already been drawn to the need to increase the level of reflexivity in their considerations. I would point to comments in relation to elders in the Amazon area "only" being interested in the carbon price and not the research findings. It is a commonplace in policy and decision-making that those who make decisions often focus mostly on economic benefits and are much less interested in the research. However, examples are rarely documented. This rather throwaway line is actually a finding worth reporting more distinctly. It may be apparent in the other case-studies as well and could be a theme of the paper.

            I fully agree that the motivations of local decision-makers (and how they perhaps correlate with certain characteristics of the research setup) are a fascinating topic. Eventually, for our Amazon case study, we postulate that the overwhelming interest of the Kayapó elders in the potential monetary results from their insufficient inclusion in the process of deep-carbon measurements (the attempt to explain the concept “carbon” just before the presentation of the results was too late to raise further interest). We have added a footnote to the sentence that expresses the idea and the need for further research. The other case studies, however, do not provide enough material on this matter, so we have no data to investigate this issue further.

            2. Each case study needs to make clear what aspect of climate change science was being presented to the different communities, what aspect of climate change was the focus of the case study (e.g. mitigation or adaptation; floods or droughts), how the climate science was seen by the communities. This would help draw the disparate case studies into a simple framework that could be built on by others.

            Table 2 now includes a row detailing whether the case study dealt primarily with climate change adaptation, climate change mitigation, or biodiversity loss. However, we did not provide any more details concerning the “kind” of natural disaster, since many case studies dealt with multiple symptoms of environmental change. Similarly, not all case studies explained a specific techno-economic concept, which is why we decided not to add this row.

            3. The way the Table assessing each case study was drawn up is unclear - this needs to be improved. The use of crosses and colours appears inconsistent. Are the colours actually needed? - If so they need explanation. The crosses need explanation also. These explanations could be in the main text or in the Table legend.

            We feel that the colours provide an additional visual aid for readers that highlights the rating better than merely relying on - / + /++. We have checked the table for possible inconsistencies and added the meaning of the respective colours to the legend. We furthermore added a paragraph on the ranking (see below). Moreover, corresponding to the subsequent comment, we are convinced that the new tables 2-4 in Chapter 3 make it easier to understand how the ratings were derived.

             

            New paragraph: “Table 5 summarises our results: Based on the case studies’ approaches to communication and their individual fulfilment of our indicators (cf. Table3 and Table 4), we mark whether the indicators (cf. Table 1) were not (sufficiently) fulfilled, partially fulfilled, or strongly fulfilled. We evaluated an indicator as “not (sufficiently) fulfilled” if the case study description does not cover efforts towards fulfilling the respective indicator, “partially fulfilled” if the case study exhibits some attempts at fulfilling the indicator though with limited effort or success, and “strong fulfilment” if the case study showcases major efforts and success towards the respective indicator.”

            4. A new Table is required or even two new Tables.

            One should draw out the limitations of the case studies and list these. As written there really are some quite glaring issues with the way some of the case studies have been done - such as a lack of interpreters for local dialects and that to me is just the kind of thing that needs documentation.

            The Table might help justify the rankings given to projects in the current Table which rather appears out of the blue as an opinion without evidential material to support it.

             

            A second new Table - essential in my view - should document the general lessons learnt from the case-studies that other communities, researchers or funding agencies could use to make progress in dealing with climate change. This would make the paper much more important and citable as it would then overcome a real problem with case study reports which is a fundamental tendency to fail to synthesise lessons learnt and analyse these so that future actions are better.

             

             A Table of further suggested actions would also be useful but maybe that is asking too much of one paper.

            We fully agree that more transparency regarding the case studies is necessary. We therefore moved, split, and expanded the table previously located in the appendix into Chapter 3.

             

            Table 2 summarises the case studies.

             

            Table 3 summarises how communication was set up within the case studies.

             

            Table 4 covers the case studies' main successes, drawbacks, learnings, and surprises.

            Reviewer 1

             

            The paper raises some critical and topical points for the transition from current still Global North-dominated approaches to research for sustainability to knowledge co-production. I have a general comment, and a few specific comments to further clarify the findings and overall narrative of the paper, and ensure that the paper is in line with current thinking and practice in this area.

             

            On a general note, the article does not come across as a fully coherent line of argumentation: are the authors actually challenging quite fundamentally the idea of "science communication" to ensure post-colonial moments (which seems to be necessary in the light of their findings on deeper understanding of power and other barriers, as mentioned in the conclusions) or are they suggesting some adjustments to "communication" as generally understood and practices in Global North-led research projects? Some of the discussion throughout the paper (and the abstract) seems to be more aligned with the latter conclusion.

            The authors challenge the idea of “science communication” as it is practised when communicating North-South fundamentally. To ensure the possibility of post-colonial moments, deeply underlying assumptions, for example, in the selection of data and power asymmetries of the involved parties, must be reflected upon together. We specifically believe that one of the paper’s strengths is the combination of rather abstract ideas on science communication with more hands-on aspects. We added additional sentences in the introduction⁠—emphasising that we aim for realistic results, i.e. changing both details and overall attitude on the way towards postcolonial moments⁠—as well as a paragraph in the discussion explaining that adjustments in single communication steps are necessary to achieve postcolonial moments eventually.

             

            On more specific points, I would encourage the authors to think about some questions that appear between the lines of their article, mainly to do with their own self-reflection:

             

            - isn't there also a question of training Global North scientists in understanding indigenous and local knowledge, before even starting to design a research project that will rely on other knowledge systems? In various points in the article, the assumption is that "stakeholders" in the Global South need to understand the framing and terms of researchers, not the other way around, and "communication" helps stakeholders to understand researchers mainly (even if sometimes it also helps researchers better understanding local knowledge). This is critical for some of the assumptions that emerge in the paper ("biodiversity" is a complex concept for local communities, whereas their own knowledge and lived experiences may actually have more to do with and say on complexity than our own/international notions of biodiversity).

            We agree: The revision of the understanding of global North scientists who naturally assume that their concepts, e.g. of biodiversity, have to be communicated and understood instead of scheduling enough time for listening and co-production of knowledge and concepts is critical for any successful North-South co-operation.

             

            We added a sentence reflecting on “basic assumptions” and the necessity of “North-South training” of researchers:

             

            “Accordingly, this article understands itself also as a call for a more profound preparatory training of Western(-ised) field researchers working in the Global South, who often assume that their concepts must be communicated and understood instead of scheduling enough time for comprehending and co-producing local knowledge and concepts.”

            - should researchers consider indigenous and local knowledge holders as "co-researchers" as part of knowledge co-production, rather than "essential for data collection and policy implementation" (p 17). Isn't this in itself a barrier to post-colonial research practices? And how does it speak to the authors' conclusions (or has it fallen through the cracks)?

            We agree: The continuous inclusion of indigenous and local knowledge holders as “co-researchers” in the sense of citizen-science is essential for the quality of the produced data and knowledge and, consequently, for the possible success of implementation; however, this is not only a Global South debate: since power relations are essential in all relations with research partners vs. research-subjects or even objects.

             

            We added a footnote stressing the issue of appropriate terms: “In many cases, “local research partners” would be an adequate term since the term “stakeholders” remains vague and ‎ambiguous. Nonetheless, we decided to use the latter, as almost all case studies used it. ".

            - what have the authors learnt about research co-design with Indigenous and local knowledge holders (p 15): is this  a matter of communication or does it go deeper/elsewhere?

            The attempt to co-design research often challenges previously unreflected presumptions and is transcending communication. We will add one sentence explaining that there is never enough time to seriously “co-design” research with local or indigenous populations. However, even an attempt makes a significant difference.

            - there is no (self)-reflection in the article about the role of local academic research and researchers in 1) supporting research co-design; 2) providing an essential preparation for Global North-researchers before engaging in co-designing research projects and 3) in implementation and post-implementation of knowledge co-creation projects. The disregard for prior local academic research contributes to misunderstandings and inaccurate assumptions by Global North-led research projects, missed opportunities for connected with pre-existing trusted relationships and ensuring fair and equitable benefit-sharing from research projects in terms of recognition, mutual learning and long-lasting enhancements in research capacities in the Global South.

            Often North-South scientific cooperation reflects the structures of internal colonialism in the partner countries. Especially, in the case of biodiversity research that mainly occurs in the peripheries of the involved countries, local universities are not involved in such co-operations. Accordingly, North scientists need to make a special effort to involve local scientists.

             

            In the case of research in the global South, in the planning phase special attention should be given to power asymmetries of the involved, and, also approaches such as “critical whiteness” should be reflected.

             

            We will according sentences and references throughout the text and, particularly, in the conclusion.

            - please make sure you use the correct spelling of "Colombia" (not "Columbia") throughout the article

            We corrected the spelling of “Colombia” throughout the document.

            Reviewer 2

             

            The topic of the paper is particularly interesting, and the methodology is properly described, as well as all the case studies. In addition, the paper can be an effective support for project coordinators in planning their work with local communities in different environments and socio-economic conditions.

            I only have some minor suggestions:

            Thank you for the kind comment. We are delighted to hear that our intentions came across.

            Page 3, Paragraph 4 - I suggest authors to highlight more clearly the relations between traditional knowledge and climate change. How traditional knowledge can effectively contribute to climate change mitigation/adaptation? How it can contribute to biodiversity conservation?

            We added two examples and references of how traditional knowledge can help in the main body.

             

            “—for instance, species of agroforestry-systems can contribute to adaptation to droughts and, hence, to food securi‎ty (CIP, 2018), and traditional knowledge about biodiversity indicators maps current developments accurately (Hadlos et al., 2022)⁠—"

            Page 5, Last Paragraph - I suggest authors to consider also the following issue to strengthen the link between traditional knowledge and biodiversity conservation. Protected Areas, established with the purpose of protecting biodiversity, sometimes neglect the role of traditional knowledge and of traditional agro-forestry activities in shaping the landscape and in creating different habitats and microhabitats. The paradox is that these Protected Areas prohibit those traditional activities that have allowed a high biodiversity and therefore are the reason of the recognition as a protected area. In some tropical countries, instead, it has been proved that the active involvement of local communities with their of traditional knowledge and agro-forestry activities act as a defence against illegal deforestation and biodiversity loss. An example can be represented by the Indigenous Reserve of Monochoa and the related chagras system, which is located in Colombia, one of the countries with a presented study case; other examples can be found in community forest management in Indonesia. In this regard, I do not completely agree with the second sentence of the conclusion section ("progress towards solving them has been meagre"), as there are different examples of projects that at local level contributed to climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation, especially if carried out with the involvment of local communities. International programmes, such as the GIAHS Programme of the FAO, can represent an example of traditional knowledge valorization with positive effects on biodiversity conservation and on more sustainable agricultural systems.

            Yes, we agree entirely. We added two references and a brief sentence to mention the crucial debate:

             

            “Notably, the land sharing-land/sparing-debate (see Tscharntke et al., 2012, and Loconto et al., 2020) sheds light on the role of underlying presumptions regarding global conservation policies”

             

            Page 8, last paragraph - Are you referring to the south-american country of Colombia? Is it Colombia, not Columbia. Please, check it throughout the manuscript.

            We corrected the spelling of “Colombia” throughout the document.

            Supplementary material. I am not sure that this part needs to be published as supplementary materials. While I have found the Appendix (tab 3) really important (it is a pity that it is not included within the main text!), in my opinion the Supplementary material adds nothing particularly interesting (info and/or data) to the readers.

            We discussed this point with the editor. According to their suggestions, we integrated the previous Table 3 as three separated (and slightly extended tables) in the main body. The editors prioritised keeping the supplementary material in the article, which is why we kept it.

            Abstract

            Climate change and biodiversity loss trigger policies targeting and impacting local communities worldwide. However, research and policy implementation often fail to sufficiently consider community responses and involve them. We present the results of a collective self-assessment exercise for eight case studies of communications regarding climate change or biodiversity loss between project teams and local communities. We develop eight indicators of good stakeholder communication, reflecting the scope of Verran (2002)'s concept of postcolonial moments as a communicative utopia. We demonstrate that applying our indicators can enhance communication and enable community responses. However, we discover a divergence between timing, complexity, and (introspective) effort. Three cases qualify for postcolonial moments, but scrutinizing power relations and genuine knowledge co-production remain rare. While we verify the potency of various instruments for deconstructing science, their sophistication cannot substitute trust building and epistemic/transdisciplinary awareness. Lastly, we consider that reforming inadequate funding policies helps improving the work in and with local communities.

            Content

            Author and article information

            Journal
            UCL Open: Environment Preprint
            UCL Press
            13 June 2023
            Affiliations
            [1 ] Energy Access and Development Program (EADP); German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP); German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin);
            [2 ] Free University Berlin;
            [3 ] WWF Colombia;
            [4 ] Luc Hoffmann Institute;
            [5 ] Energy Access and Development Program (EADP); German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin);
            [6 ] University of Greifswald;
            [7 ] Equilibrium Research;
            [8 ] Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation;
            [9 ] Technische Universität Dresden;
            [10 ] Bangladesh Agricultural University;
            [11 ] Open University of the Netherlands, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Hasselt University;
            [12 ] CEBioS;
            [13 ] Fenner School of Environment and Society;
            [14 ] Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich;
            [15 ] Red Cross/Red Crescent Climate Centre;
            [16 ] Hasselt University;
            Author notes
            Author information
            https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5621-8357
            Article
            10.14324/111.444/000176.v2
            3e774e0f-de0f-4c66-ae99-1d89e17b0ca4

            This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

            History
            : 18 July 2022
            : 3 August 2023
            Funding
            Funded by: funder-id , This research was partially funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research BMBF (FoReSee, grant no. 01LA1811B, Economics of the Climate Change II programme; COMTESS, grant no. 01LL0911A-G, Sustainable Land Management programme; Carbiocial, grant no. 01LL0902F, Sustainable Land Management programme, ECAS-BALTIC, grant no. 03F0860G, Küno Küstenforschung Nordsee / Ostsee), the European Commission (DESIRE, project number 561638-EPP-1-2015-1-JO-EPP KA2-CBHE-JP, grant agreement number: 2012-3324/001-001), the Flemish Interuniversity Council – University Development Cooperation VLIR-UOS (North South South Cooperation Programme ZIUS2015VOA3106), the Belgian Directorate-General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (CEBioS programme), the Special Research Fund of Hasselt University (BOF20TT06), the Belgian Science Policy BELSPO (EVAMAB of CEBioS programme), the Luc Hoffmann Institute, and the German Research Foundation DFG (Germany's Excellence Strategy – EXC 2037 'CLICCS - Climate, Climatic Change, and Society', project no 390683824).;
            Award ID: see above
            Categories

            Data sharing not applicable to this article as no datasets were generated or analysed during the current study.
            Philosophy of science,Environmental economics & Politics,Environmental studies,Environmental management, Policy & Planning,General social science,Development studies
            transdisciplinary communication,climate change,biodiversity loss,knowledge co-production,postcolonial moments,local communities,local knowledge,People and their environment,Environmental policy and practice,Environmental justice and inequality/inequity,Climate change,Sustainable development,Biodiversity

            Comments

            Date: 03 August 2023

            Handling Editor: Prof Sarah Bell and Prof Dan Osborn

            Accept. This revised article has been accepted following peer review and it is suitable for publication in UCL Open: Environment.

            2023-08-03 15:03 UTC
            +1

            Date: 16 June 2023

            Handling Editor: Prof Sarah Bell

            The article has been revised, this article remains a preprint article and peer-review has not been completed. It is under consideration following submission to UCL Open: Environment for open peer review.

            2023-06-16 16:05 UTC
            +1

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