In “Sheepfarming after Chernobyl,” Brian Wayne explores communicaitons problems between scientists, government officials, and sheepfarmers in Cumbria, UK following Chernobyl. In the aftermath of the Chernobyl incident, radioactive isotopes rained on sheepfarming areas in Cumbria causing governmental concern over the safety of Cumbrian sheep for human consumption. During this time the English government enacted many risk management policies designed to ensure the safety of the sheep supply and to compensate Cumbrian sheepfarmers for the results of this disaster.
Wayne identifies several communication failures that exacerbated an already tense situation. He cites a persistent lack of inclusion of local expertise on the part of government regulators as a major contributor to the communication problems. Cumbrian farmers expressed a great deal of discontent at the apparent lack of understanding on the part of government regulators and scientists. For example, they objected to government demands that they round up their sheep in an impossible time frame. Additionally, farmers distrusted what they perceived as overly theoretical knowledge such as the distinction between different Cesium isotopes. Ultimately Wayne suggests that scientistis and government regulators typically devalue local knowledge in favor of creditialed “expert” knowledge, and that in so doing they often alienate portions of the public. Ultimately the recommend reorganizing policy decision-making practices so as to include local expertise.
This article identifies key constituents in the problems surrounding communication with Cumbrian sheepfarmers post-Chernobyl. It seems the denial of legitimacy to local knowledge sources added unneeded tension to an already difficult situation and may have slowed the process of crisis-management. However, the article seems to conflate the roles of scientists and government regulators. (Something that may well have been done by the Cumbrian sheepfarmers.) A more through investigation of post-Chernobyl Cumbrian sheepfarming might include more detailed exploration of the scientists-policy maker interface.