J500 Media and the Environment

Can we talk? by lizhawks
November 7, 2008, 7:26 pm
Filed under: Energy + Climate | Tags: , , , ,

As part of the CEP project’s ag group, I had the pleasure of interviewing two folks who work daily for two totally different third-party entities communicating directly with farmers. It was fascinating to me that the most persuasive sustainability messages these diverse entities use in their communication with Kansas farmers revealed their common ground. The bottom line is the wind will blow in Kansas. And farmers are motivated by the idea they could financially reap rewards if they were to utilize that once-cursed resource. (And oh, by the way, doing so happens to help protect the environment, thank you.)


It isn’t without irony that in thinking about the literal agricultural ground we all share in common here in the heartland I realized the concept of common ground was perhaps my most important takeaway. It really wasn’t about how to solve climate change. It was about how to find common ground.


We all approach issues and policies behind our own lenses of life experiences, influences and values. Farmers are no different. They depend on our commonly shared ground for their livelihoods, their survival, but they question whether climate change is really a fundamental issue. They want to know what’s in it for them. They need to be engaged on their terms, in their own language, by someone they trust.


We need to start a dialogue in which we can come to a common ground where farmers can engage, not feel blamed, defensive or politicized. We can find sustainability in finding ways to sustain a fresh conversation.


After all, going green is a journey. And each of our constituent groups has its own map.

–Liz Hawks


Wind turbines have been called both "monstrous" and "majestic" by Kansans. Can we talk? (Photo: allamericanpatriots.com)


5 Comments so far
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Hi Michelle. Thank you SO much for the basil. It’s filling my kitchen with the best pesto smell!

I think the practice of finding common ground is a very interesting and super important one, and your group did a fantastic job of executing it.

Your videos were full of some very candid, very honest moments. Maybe this is a measure of knowing when you have found common ground–when you’re able to drop the wall and feel comfortable enough to be authentic.

In doing your interviews, did you have any insights into your own experience farming? Are you able to take advantage of the wind on your land?

Marisa B.

Comment by marisabreg

I learned a lot from your group’s presentation. The soundbite where the farmer talked about how someone could live in an area for 80 years, but still be considered an outsider if he wasn’t born there really said a lot.

I thought of that soundbite when I read this in your blog, “They need to be engaged on their terms, in their own language, by someone they trust.” Let’s say you’re going into a community where almost everyone is an “outsider.” Who would they really trust to deliver these messages?

Comment by chrisr11

Hi, Marisa:
It’s Liz here, actually. I wish I could take credit for growing such amazing basil, but I grow children instead of basil!

I agree — our farmer interviews, as well as our interviews with the folks who are talking to these farmers every day — were very candid and insightful. You could tell how engaged these folks get when someone sits down with them, asks questions, takes the time to listen, and has a conversation. If we had approached these people as CEP wanting to talk to them about energy, we likely would have gotten a different reception than we did as KU grad students with a project to do.

Though I’m not a farmer (but I did grow up on 80 acres in southwest Missouri), I found something Dan Nagengast said interesting — he said people call him all the time asking how they can get a turbine because they’ve heard about the payout opportunity. They need to understand how these things work, that you can’t just buy one, and there are manufacturing and grid issues to consider. I found it almost ironic that there are people who don’t know much about turbines trying to get one, and others who have the capacity for turbines who need to be persuaded.

Hopefully CEP’s efforts will keep the water dripping on the rock. It will be fascinating to see how far we’ve come in 30 years.


Comment by lizhawks

Liz, I think that you and your group did an amazing job presenting yesterday. I learned so much, and the subject of farming is something close to me I am from Kansas and my family, which immigrated there generations ago, has always farmed.

After listening to your presentation and the points it raised, I am eager to talk with my relatives to learn their viewpoints on clean energy (wind) and whether they are using no-till farming practices.

Great job!

Comment by staceyc08

Sorry about that Liz, I am just so blissed out by the basil!

Thanks for responding to my comment, even if I thought you were Michelle.

That is strange – that some people who don’t know much about turbines want one, and others who are positioned for them perfectly, don’t necessarily. Maybe this is more of finding the right way to approach them. Maybe it’s not the money with all of them, maybe for some it’s knowing what it means to have some of their land occupied by an outsider?

Marisa B.

Comment by marisabreg

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