Talking Across the Concrete- Abstract Divide
Words are essential to communication, whether in blogdom or in person. One reason it’s important to discuss topics with others is that you can find out through discussion that words can mean different things to different people. You might be in agreement about concepts and simply word them differently.
I am a more literal and concrete kind of person, and many people in planning are more visionary- a kind of Myers-Briggs sensing compared to intuitive kind of thing.
Concrete and Abstract
- A concrete word or image is specific and sensual: it evokes a material reality.
- An abstract word or image is general, and communicates an idea; it expresses a connection that is mental rather than sensuous, sometimes one that is not immediately obvious.
First, Martin and I have always disagreed about the need for “thresholds” in NEPA documents, and specifically for forest plans which incorporate adaptive management. I have always thought that that was too vague, and there are too many possibilities with no particular reason for choosing a target level of a given thing.
But as we were talking today in our small groups at the Roundtable, we were talking about area occupied by species and talking about establishing a target of acres of habitat occupied (collaboratively) – and if the species would go below that – a chosen number of those acres based on monitoring- , the Rule could require the collaborative group to get back together, and figure out some different approach to species protection as an amendment. To me, the inhabited acres would be called a target and lower limits, lower limits. But looking back on it, I think I might, by lower limit, mean the same thing as a threshold. But without going through an example with Martin, I didn’t get it. Assuming that is what he meant. But he can weigh in here.
Second, the idea of ecological sustainability being pre-eminent never appealed to me. Strictly pragmatically, I thought we can’t always make the most protective decisions (like fencing all the people out of the Angeles National Forest if they have too many environmental impacts). But talking to Professor Wilkinson, he meant it in a visionary, righ-brained way, as a goal which people could figure out through collaborative efforts and reinvent their interpretation through time and with learning. My original thought was “ecological sustainability” was an analytical idea, and the problem was that you could do all kinds of analyses of everything and never prove something was sustainable.
Something like forest planning, and planning rules involve people from a wide array of backgrounds with different meanings for the same words. That is why it is so important to have conversations with others across different views, including the concrete/abstract divide.