The main aim of the project is to use empirical research in order to investigate and improve citizen empowerment in the context of public health implications of environmental pollution and conflict. The project examines a specific type of citizen empowerment that arises out of a process of knowledge co-production between citizens and scientists, a process termed Activism Mobilising Science (AMS). The project is generating empirical knowledge about how AMS operates and the role of co-production in empowering citizens. As an extension of this process, the project also integrates deliberative decision-making tools and methods in order to improve the transformational capacity of public decision-making processes related to public health controversies.
The project involves in-depth case study research of an AMS process in the context of a well-established health-environmental controversy in Catalonia, the salt waste-pile of Sallent (‘el cogulló de Sallent’). Local groups have been denouncing since the 1920s the environmental and public health implications of high salinity in the Llobregat River caused by potash mining in the Bages region. Working together with scientists and lawyers some local groups opposing the project have been co-producing new knowledge that has been presented as evidence in numerous court cases, making this an illustrative case for studying AMS.
The project is interdisciplinary research so will contribute to several specific targets of different SDGs. For example it will contribute towards better health by aiming to reduce the contamination of the Llobregat river that feeds water to the Barcelona region (Target 3.9). In doing so it aims to protect the river and its related ecosystems (Target 6.6). The project wants to do so by supporting and empowering local communities (Target 6.B), however.the pollution of the river is being caused by a mine so the project aims at liaising also with the mine management in order to promote a sustainable management of resources (Target12.2) and environmental sound management of waste (Target 12.4). Linked with Target 6.B, the local population needs to be better informed about this pollution (Target 12.8) so that they collaborate with the conservation and restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and land freshwater ecosystems (Target 15.1). Local authorities who are also integrated in project have a huge say in the integration of ecosystema values into local planning (Target 15.9).
Through wide dissemination of project findings, we hope to spread new ways of creating knowledge in order to empower society and its involvement in policy-making, and inspire and stimulate new participatory processes of deliberation in order to avoid costly conflicts and achieve an engaged and empowered society, as well as accountable public institutions. The project team, as well as different municipalities, peasants’ union, activist platforms and other stakeholders will be involved not only in the design of dissemination initiatives but will also participate the planning of the different workshops, allowing them to feel the results of the project as theirs. The outreach activities will reach the Unions peasant (500 citizens) and local municipalities (800 citizens aprox), as well as newspaper articles (651.000 readers), radio programs (341.000) as well as social media.