2022 Best Student Paper Award Recipient

This year’s CSA PSSM Best Student Paper Award was presented to Max Chewinski (University of British Columbia), for his paper entitled “It Became a Battlefield: Emotions, Polarization and Disengagement from Environmental Deliberations.”

The adjudication committee found Max’s paper to make an extensive, thoughtful, and innovative contribution to research on emotions and environmental deliberations. The abstract for the paper is below. Congratulations!

Environmental justice research is increasingly incorporating emotions to better understand how people respond to environmental hazards and risks. Missing in most accounts is a focus on emotions in facilitating or constraining meaningful opportunities for public participation in environmental deliberations. I contribute to this emerging body of scholarship by considering how emotions shape the social relations and practices that structure environmental deliberations following the 2014 Mount Polley mining disaster. I draw on 42 semi-structured interviews, 208 news articles and 4, 723 pages of email communications, letters, and other documents associated public consultation processes to assess the relationship between environmental disasters, emotions, and participation in deliberations. I find that environmental change and experiences of procedural injustice fuel and reinforce negative emotions (anger, animosity, fear, and frustration). The intensity and durability of negative emotions in turn have two consequences for the social relations and practices of participants in democratic deliberations. First, negative emotions encourage polarization as participants are organized into opposing factions and empathy walls between stakeholders are secured. Second, and linked to the first, the prevalence of negative emotions and polarization leads to disengagement as people seek to avoid emotional harm. I argue that unmanaged negative emotions may incite polarization and disengagement which prevents meaningful opportunities for members of the public to shape decisions that affect their communities and local environment.

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