Strategies for communicating to the public about ecosystem change?
Hi, I’m interested in knowing how to advocate to the public on topics such as the introduction or removal of invasive species, gene drives (like getting rid of mosquitos with malaria), things like that, where people make choices to change features of an ecosystem.
It’s clear that it can be very difficult to know how activities like this will work out, but I find that people often take this a step further and resort to a sort of folk ignorance, where they assume that interventions/activities will predictably backfire and make things worse. You might compare this to folk economic beliefs, where people believe that markets are perfect and any government intervention is going to bungle things up. Proponents of changing the ecosystem are perceived as having a sort of technological hubris that inevitably leads to ruin.
I think this phenomenon would end if people understood two ideas that I think will be relatively uncontroversial among ecologists (correct me if I’m wrong) and I’d like to know if there are studies that might shed light on how to communicate them to the public, or just your experience/recommendations:
An action to change an ecosystem might achieve its desired ends just as easily as it might backfire, and there is no guarantee that the side effects would be bad rather than good; we can’t automatically predict a bad outcome. (combat excessive pessimism)
Scientific study can help us find actions that are probably, not 100% guaranteed, but probably, going to work. (combat anti-intellectualism)