PCST Network

Public Communication of Science and Technology


Activism in Latin America
The role of science communication and NGOs in socio-environmental conflicts

Diogo de OliveiraUniversidade Federal de Campina Grande. Brazil


  • Bruce LewensteinCornell University   United States
This insight paper explores how to study a topic relatively rarely discussed in PCST research: the place of NGOs in public communication of science and technology. To do so, we use an example from Latin America where science communication, environmental activism, and social movements interact. The paper draws on data from NGOs about how they use science communication as a tool for telling stories about environmental conflicts that frequently turn violent.  According to the NGO Global Witness, almost 1600 land and environmental activists in Latin America – mainly peasants, indigenous people and members of traditional communities in conflictual areas -- lost their lives between 2002 and 2018, almost three times the rest of the world. The main goal of the paper is to understand the use of scientific storytelling by NGOs and activists to defend their point of view and to influence public opinion towards their position. We used multiple methods: Textual and quantitative data is drawn from the formal reports of four NGOs - Global Witness (United Kingdom), Pastoral Commission of Land (Brazil), Editorial Board (Colombia) and Mexican Center for Environmental Law (Mexico). We also conducted semi-structured interviews with representatives of the NGOs about their use of science communication.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Category: Visual presentation
Theme: Transformation