The Emergence of Risk Communication Studies: Social and Political Context
This article highlights the analysis and risk communication studies within the context of social and politics. Particularly, the related problems concerning the “political management of public perceptions anin individual responses to risk.”
Risk communication is more than a study. Interested professional groups such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Public Health and Safety Departments and Government Advisory Agency (Decision-making body) relied on effective management of risk communication. This is where the social and political issues hold with regards to successfully imparting the message.
As an instance, the Papua New Guinea government with its political pride has fully accepted the Seabed Mining Solwara1 Project to operate in it’s territory. What the government fail to do was to fully address was the issue of impact on the environment with regards to the population whose survival and livelihood was dependent solely on the coastal environment.
This is a perfect interwoven case of a social and political issue, there is risk communication involved. I personally am placed in a doldrum of uncertainties. As a public servant and having to come from the coastal area in which the proposed mine site is, I have to come up with meaningful explanations for the good my people and at the same time being faithful and loyal to the government of the day.
So, risk communication can have the following definitions as indicated by Plough and Krimsky; it can be intentionally, content, audience directed, source of information and flow of message. Having to understand the definitions, one can then be able to successfully take charge of the risks involved in information delivery to the lay public with ease and to the government as well. That is defining the central problem of the field. This is again a divergence between expert, policy and lay community on matters of risk.
Finally, this article concluded and settled with two important issues.
- Through history, models of risk communication were developed in various forms which had filtered through quantitative models of assessment and cognitive typologies of perceptions. This forms the social context of risk.
- This focus on the challenges between the models in one and the structural problems of risk communication. It then involves the political context. The analytic models were designed to respond to real problems.
Thus, finally I’d like to close with what Mary Douglas remarked, “ideas about the world come directly out of human experience.”