NOVEMBER 9, 2023 — The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Jessica Eise, an assistant professor of social and environmental challenges in the UTSA Department of Communication, $425,000 for her project to explore how to create enduring change in environmental public behavior to support actions that will effectively address climate change and its impacts on society.
Despite four decades of climate change communication, the world has yet to see adequate public action and policymaker support to substantively address the challenge.
Eise’s findings will empower policymakers, business leaders and other relevant leaders and stakeholders to make more informed decisions on how to encourage climate action.
“We have failed to take effective collective action in the 40 years we have known about climate change. We’re missing an important key,” said Eise. “This project is an incredible opportunity to explore a few critical possibilities that might serve to build consensus and momentum.”
The grant comes at a crucial time, Glenn Martinez, dean of the College of Liberal and Fine Arts, said.
"In an era when the consequences of climate change are becoming increasingly evident, it is imperative that we explore innovative approaches to inspire meaningful change in public behavior and policymaking,” he said. "This grant not only underscores the dedication of our faculty, like Professor Eise, to addressing society's most pressing challenges but also highlights UTSA's commitment to advancing research that can drive positive action on climate science. This project holds the potential to reshape the way we approach the conversation on climate change and foster a collective commitment to tackling the urgent issues facing our planet."
Eise’s project, Integrating Spiritual, Moral and Ethical Considerations into Science Communication for Improved Decision Making and Public Action on Climate Science, will include three studies that explore the relationship between personal beliefs and actions toward climate change. This project marks the evolution of Eise’s work into how a spiritual connection to the environment can affect climate change.
In the first, titled “Promoting Self Reflection,” participants will engage in various formats — from individual conversations to group discussions or personal reflections — focusing on their spiritual, moral and ethical perspectives on climate change.
The second study, titled “Retelling the Story,” delves into the power of multimedia narratives, assessing storytelling that emphasizes moral or spiritual values and how these stories can reshape our understanding of climate issues.
In the final study, titled “Building Infectious Behaviors,” participants will either adopt a specific sustainable practice or create their own, rooted in their personal beliefs, then share or reflect on their experiences.
As these studies unfold, a range of engagement tools, such as white papers and videos, will be crafted to disseminate findings and inspire a broader environmental commitment.
“If natural and physical science alone could save us from climate change, we would be well on our way to a solution. But human behavior — and human nature — have long been both incredible impediments and catalysts to solving problems, many of our own making,” Eise said. “It is essential that we give social and human behavior the attention it requires, and this project allows us to do just that over a span of three years."
Eise, a former director of communications for Purdue University’s Department of Agricultural Economics, specializes in research focused on climate change, food security, technology and communication.
She is the founder of the blended academic/social project Clima y Café (Climate and Coffee), a climate change initiative that uses grassroots outreach strategies to support climate change adaptation in the Colombian coffee sector. Eise has pioneered the concept of utilizing spirituality to fight climate change.
UTSA is a Tier One research university and a Hispanic Serving Institution that is committed to tackling society’s grand challenges through world-class education and research programs.
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