Jan 11

What’s new, Newsletter essay
Pluralism in a Polarized World

Elise Miller, MEd photoBy Elise Miller, MEd

Polarization is a term that seems to be applied to almost every realm of society these days—from politics to socioeconomic status. In this state of affairs, only the opposite ends of the spectrum of possibilities are expressed while everything in the middle seems to vanish. And what we know about polarization is it only perpetuates polarization. The ends never meet. It is always either/or.

Unity is the rallying cry for some in response to polarization. But conceptually 'coming together as one' does not explicitly acknowledge our differences nor respect the vast, often conflicting range of our experiences and views.

Pluralism, however, contains diverse, co-existing entities—each fundamentally connected to but not privileged over another. Biodiversity, geographical diversity, ethnic diversity—diversity is what enriches and sustains life.


The cornerstone of CHE's theory of change in the world is pluralism. We are committed to consciously holding dualistic perspectives, like a koan, until a breakthrough occurs—an insight emerges that embodies a deeper truth. As realizations occur, everyone is propelled forward into a more expansive landscape that includes justice, knowledge, kindness and wisdom.

These are not platitudes. These describe CHE's service at its best. Twice in this past week, posts were made on two different ScienceServs that sparked starkly different reactions from different partners. The ensuing online discussion was challenging. Direct, contrasting views were shared and debated. But nobody was vindictive. No one slandered another. Even in their frustration, a couple partners expressed appreciation for being able to have a forum for this kind of discussion because respect and civility prevailed.

As the Trump Administration steps into power in less than10 days, polarized perspectives threaten to take over every conversation. Many of us committed to protecting the health of current and future generations rightly fear that regulations and policies that prioritize clean water, clean air and healthy communities will be derailed.

In this context, it is even more important that forums like CHE's are available for critical discussion of the emerging environmental health science and its implications for policy. We will absolutely not allow for intolerance and extremism. However, if we persist in our exploration of the evidence with open minds and if we relish the diversity that invigorates creativity and understanding, then we can move the needle towards more life-affirming, health-promoting action on all levels of society. This is CHE's mission and we are grateful to move into 2017 with you as partners to help us carry it out.

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Tags: informing changesocial context