News & Events

Grad student talk - "Swing thinkers": Communicating climate science to the frustrated and confused

Thursday, January 20, 2011, 4:30PM - 5:30PM


Ryan Vachon



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Conveying scientific information is often beleaguered by disengaged minds. Confusion, frustration, intimidation by sheer volumes of information and a feeling of powerlessness result in paralysis. Climate science is a perfect example. However, in truth, disenfranchised individuals are deep wells of latent motivation and vigor that can power much creative thinking, and action in schools, communities and government circles. Similar to the huge potential energy that politicians seek to woo of swing voters, science-numbed people, “swing thinkers”, can be engaged and activated. What does it take? Transformation. With an emotional and intellectual conversion, internalization of information begins. In turn, this knowledge powers innovation and wise decision-making.

The road to activating swing thinkers is not easy. Through examination of practical experiences and consultation with communications and mediation specialists, a pedagogy has been developed to lubricate the cogs of imagination, energize the frustrated and educate the swing thinkers. Indeed, how information is presented is a key factor to consider, however, there are preceding steps essential to get to the point where unimpeded information retention can occur. In this presentation we will present a paradigm for effectively engaging swing thinkers. We will illustrate this process, in part, with an adventure science film about high altitude ice coring.