J500 Media and the Environment

It’s not a small world after all… by denah

As I look back on the last few months and about this particular class, I can’t help but have a flashback to my childhood. I’m sitting in Disney World on the ride “It’s a small world after all” with little mechanical people from all different parts of the world dancing, singing and playing with one another. A part of me wants to believe that everybody in the world can dance, sing and play with one another…but it is really not so easy.

If anything, this course has taught me to open my eyes just a little more to what is going on in our world. The world is truly a big, big place…with so many opportunities. There is still so much to learn about the environment, about going green, about the polar bears and polar ice caps, the meat industry, landfills and recycling. I have learned that I need to step out of this small shelter that I have had myself in for most of my lifetime and I need to learn about what is happening in and to our world.

Since I am realizing how big this world truly is, I have to wonder where my place is. Where do I fit into this enormous world? This course has taught me that it is okay to not be radical, but to take these small baby steps. I know I don’t need to be a vegetarian to make a world a better place, but I do know that maybe an alternative would be to eat organic, local meats. I have to thank my classmates for accepting me as somewhere in the middle of all of this.

After spending time in this class and working at the Center for Sustainability this semester, I obviously think about what it even means to be sustainable anyway. I thought our class discussion about the definition of sustainability was the perfect way to sum up the reasons for “why are we here?” and “why do we even care?” We’re here and we care because this is about us, the people. It is about ways to make ourselves happy and to make the world happy. It is about compromise and sacrifice of ourselves in order to put someone else’s and the world’s needs first. We really need to ensure our survival and the world’s survival. What better way of doing that then working together?

So now what? I want to thank Simran and the entire class for such an eye opening experience. I am so glad I chose to take this course because I have really learned so much. Thank you for helping me open my eyes to the world. So what do we do with all of this that we have experienced this semester? Educate others and yourself.

I will end this post with a quote from one of my favorite movies, Airplane:

“Just want to let you know, we’re counting on you.”

-Dena Hart

j500 teaches the sun a thing or two by acbowman
April 29, 2008, 11:03 am
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , , , , , ,

There is an old saying, “There is nothing new under the sun.”


photo courtesy of astro.uva.nl

However, after a semester researching and analyzing environmental media content, I have come to think that environmental problems are in fact new. The earth has seen environmental transitions and changes before, but never has the cause of those problems had the intelligence and technology to stop and possibly reverse it’s impact.

Human beings have had to make difficult decisions before, such as whether to go to war or how to feed ourselves. But the environment brings a level of complexity in the decision making process that we haven’t had to deal with before

Because these problems are new, we have a difficult time figuring out solutions. This makes communicating about the issues equally daunting. As our blog illustrates, we all have different ideas about how to fix the problems, and how to communicate about the problems. In traditional media, the issues are discussed, like most things, as polarizing opposites in conflict. The benefit of new media sources is that there is opportunity to discuss the issues as people problems, rather than political problems.

The one constant in all of this is that the environment isn’t a Democratic issue. It isn’t a Republican issue. It isn’t a rich issue. And it isn’t a poor issue. It is a people issue. The brilliant thing about people is that we are all different. And the frustrating thing about people is that we are all different. Because of that, there is no one answer for how to reach everybody to inform and educate them about sustainability.

What has come through all of this, for me, is that you have to talk to people where they are. What is important to them. And show them how by being sustainable, they are really making everything that is important to them better. Basically, you have to talk to them on a personal level.

So even though the problems are more complex than anything under the sun, the way to communicate about them is as old as dirt.


photo courtesy of pioneerasphaltinc.com


Looking for the Trees in My Blog Forest by jenh
April 29, 2008, 11:02 am
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , ,

My partner asked me a question yesterday that summed up a lot of my trepidation about blogging. Philosophically, she could have been asking me the old tree falling in the forest question. “If you blog and no one reads it,” she said, “have you said anything?”

Hmmmm. Well, the answer depends on the reason you write.

I’ve pursued English in my post-secondary education for eight years. It’s taken about that long to figure out that writing for me alone isn’t enough. It may be cathartic to puzzle out the most compelling way to write, but it isn’t satisfying. What I really crave is a conversation – inspiring a conversation among other people sometimes, or other times a discussion between writer and reader. That’s what drew me to creative non-fiction and essay writing as a grad student. You can apply your personal lens to experiences (both common and uncommon to the rest of the populace), and maybe they get something out of that, too.

Now that I’ve been properly introduced to blogs (howd’y’do), I see them as a mechanism to bring good writing and that conversation together. Blogs do what I would argue the printed form cannot: they are an invitation. They are, look what happened! Isn’t this amazing? Let’s talk about this and find the other people who are passionate about it, too! There’s an intimacy in their personalities and immediacy in their instant communication.

But communication is not just message sent. It’s also message received. People have to find that blog or you have to find them, and that brings us back to blogging in the forest, so to speak. If you write just for yourself, there isn’t much potential for someone else to hear you. That’s just narcissism and diary fodder and frankly, the blogosphere has enough navel gazing as it is. If you want to bring about change, conversation, make someone think – all those things and more will be reflected in the blogging choices you make. That means cultivating an audience through your personal writing style, the information you present, your credibility, your candor.

So, I’d like to turn the question around. I don’t think the issue is whether you’ve been heard; the question to ask yourself is, how will you make sure that you are heard? How will they make a connection to what you write, what you say, what you present to them, so they can continue the conversation?

I don’t know about you, but after this semesterly experiment is over, I will still be talking about the issues we’ve discussed. And writing. And listening. And hoping (ever idealistic) that it makes a difference. –Jen Humphrey

All thanks to queen green and her eco-knights of the round table by travisjbrown

Thanks Simran. Thanks class.

Now I live my life in fear.

I’m afraid that I will melt; that polar bears will turn cannibalistic then start feasting on human flesh; that chemistry will replace farming; that Wal-Mart will become the leader of all that is “green” and take over the world in the name of environmentalism; that the polar ice caps will melt and the only beings that will survive will be Kevin Costner-esque mermen; that America will never get it; that the Texas-sized island of discarded plastic will crash into California, killing everyone in its path; hat my children will never eat a real strawberry; that my children will never grow old; that I will never grow old because I will melt. That we are on the brink of an environmental apocalypse

Pat Marvenko Smith, The Four Horsemen

Thanks a lot guys.

I didn’t even have the option of taking a green pill of a black pill.

Okay so maybe I signed up for the class.

But how was I supposed to know it would actually make me care. Now, when my mind idles, I think of carbon footprints, how wasteful everything is and if i should start training myself to breath underwater.

There is one thing, however, that I’m not afraid of. I’m not afraid that I won’t be heard. I’ve spent the last four years constructing a giant megaphone that I can use to scream to the world.

And, by golly, people will listen.

I can’t promise that I will forever and always preach the gospel of green. But I will do my damnedest to save the world.



Travis Brown

One little blog, one BIG step for environmentalism. by Sarah
April 28, 2008, 2:52 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , ,

Photo: MacGBeing, Flickr

A “media and the environment” class is been something that I would have never seen myself signing up for a year ago. I was about the farthest thing away from a “green” person. And if you said the word “sustainability” to me, I probably would have given you a blank stare and moved on with my life. But as we learned in our last meeting, living sustainably – can’t really be defined. WE are the ones that define it for ourselves. In our interview with Adam Werbach, however, he said it best though when his definition of sustainability was “a harmonious relationship between human culture and the living world.” Congratulations Adam, we have spent an entire semester trying to define it like that, and you did it in like, 15 seconds, and it was a beautiful.

I looked back at my first post, where I was talking about taking baby steps in my own life and how that was how I was going to live sustainably. Today, I still believe that. I still believe that people need time to change, and they need to find some sort of comfort in making those changes. So if Clorox wants to gradually convert it’s consumers to “green products,” then I applaud them for doing so. If Wal-Mart is STARTING to make changes to be more eco-friendly, I applaud them too. I’m not going to be a pessimist and say they will never be a “green” corporation. I choose to be an optimist. I choose to believe that they will continue to make their corporation more environmentally friendly, and become an example for other corporations to follow.

I also choose to believe that what we did in this class HAS made a difference. By just talking about these issues, and making ourselves known on this blog – I think we accomplished what this class was all about. People are starting to change the way they live, companies are realizing how important it is for them to be sustainable, and “living green” is starting to be a way of life for more people.

As our class is coming to an end, I am taking away so many things I have learned from all of you. I have met people who truly care about the environment, and I’m proud of the huge conversation we have begun as a class. I look forward to continuing that conversation in the future.

-Sarah Nelson

Ask Dr. Dolittle by jkongs
April 28, 2008, 11:16 am
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , ,

My hands full, I fumbled through the front door, cursing whomever turned off the porch light as I tripped over an anonymous object in my way. Most of the lights inside, though, were on – as was the radio and a box fan. The culprits were clear : Bijou, Luna, and Linus – my feline house mates – were lounging in the family room, enjoying a little late night NPR. It was at that moment that I had a revelation. All of our discussions about how to reach people, how to get people to make daily behavioral changes to lessen their environmental impact – this whole time we’ve been going at it the wrong way. We need to learn to speak to the animals (If only Rex Harrison were still here… at least there’s always the movie).

Let’s replay last night, shall we? I come home, again cursing the porch light, and then once more cursing that I’m juggling books and bags and trying to find the kitchen light switch. That’s right, the lights are all off, the house is silent, and there is little air circulation. My human house mates did not spontaneously decide, ‘Today is the day I remember to flip the switch off before running madly out the door because I’m already 15 minutes late’. No, my feline house mates, equipped with the knowledge I imparted upon them after learning to speak cat, leisurely turned off all the electronics and lights they did not need after the humans were gone. A few more sessions and I’ll have them unplugging any appliances not in use – then we’ll really be in business!

We spent this class working to figure out how to really reach people, how to make the environment a part of their decision-making process. We oscillated between meeting people where they are and bringing them over to go further and do more. People in this country are busy, too busy, and when people are rushing they forget things: where the car keys are, where the other shoe is, turning off lights and unplugging hair driers. Adding one more thing to their To Do list, albeit for a good cause like saving the earth and our planetary existence, is not typically well-received. That doesn’t mean we should give up on humans and try to communicate with people’s pets instead.

Finding that middle ground is something I, and all of us, can continue to strive for. Some of us may want to work with people and try to pull them into that infamous light green category, while others of us may want to pull those light greens over to the dark side. (I recommend not starting intergalactic warfare to achieve this means, but hey, Darth Vader would support you.) All in all, I’ve recognized that all of our voices are needed, as is every other voice we connect to with what we write, say, or do.

But seriously, one of my cats – Luna – has real potential here. She really freaked me out one time: I was washing my face and she jumped up onto the toilet next to the sink, turned around, squatted down, and -no joke – pissed into the toilet. She hopped down and sauntered off – no big deal. I just stood there, soap-faced, mouth open, amazed. I really think she could get on board with the whole light switch thing…

Jennifer Kongs

Going green is people! by jseverin


When I wrote my first piece for this site, I had little experience with blogs and had certainly never written a blog post. I had a definite aversion to journalists due to way too many misquotes and misrepresentations in the local papers. And although I have worked in the environmental field for over 7 years, I wasn’t sure just how to reach people that weren’t already part of the choir.

Three months later I am starting to get the hang of things. I’m no pro, but I think I’m starting to find my voice in the blogosphere and discovering the tremendous impact this sort of dialog can have. In the process of reading, watching, listening to, and discussing environmental media, I have learned to appreciate journalists for the difficult task they have to present a balanced and unbiased picture of what’s going on in the world and the huge responsibility that comes with that. Most importantly, I have learned that there is no magic message that is going to help put an end to our environmental woes.

I suppose I knew that all along, and it always bothered me. But the conversation we have engaged in over the past several weeks amongst ourselves and with others from around the globe has put that once disappointing realization into a positive light.

Something Adam Werbach mentioned during our discussion with him on April 24 really resonated with me. He pointed out that in an effort to solve our planetary problems, environmentalists have ignored the challenges that people face in their own lives by focusing on a “new exotic challenge of saving the world”. (My apologies if I misquoted you, Adam.) In other words, it isn’t just about this one overarching problem, but all the individual pieces of that problem. We all have a role to play in creating a more sustainable future, and that means something different to everyone. The goal is to find what that something is.

As the authors of this blog went around the room trying to define “sustainability” this week, it was evident that environmentalism isn’t about polar bears, rain forests, CFLs, wind turbines, organic food, chemical-free products, or all the green “stuff” that is starting to show up on magazine pages and The Oprah Winfrey Show (sorry, Simran).

It’s people. It is people forming relationships with each other, with the environment, with local farmers, and with the processes that bring all that “stuff” into their homes. It is people understanding and re-establishing the forgotten relationships, which probably got us into this mess in the first place. It is people – whether part of the choir or not -communicating with each other to help create the best planet we possibly can. Whether we call it Green, Blue, environmentalism, or sustainability, it is still about people.

It has been an honor writing with and learning from all the people involved in this conversation, and I look forward to continuing the dialog. Afterall, we still have to go about the dirty work of saving the world.

- Jeff Severin

Blogging: There’s more to it than you think! by lindsaycr
April 27, 2008, 8:02 am
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: ,

As the school year comes to an end, I find myself looking back on all that I have learned in my Media and the Environment class. I have to admit that when the semester first started, I was a little intimidated by the Internet component of this class.

Up until January, I had rarely heard the term blog, let alone actually written one. But after jumping into this task head first, I feel very comfortable with writing blogs. I even did a Google Search on myself and I found links to my various class blogs.

Not only will I be able to show off my work to my friends and family this way, potential employers will also be able to get a glimpse of my work on the web.

The main reason I signed up for this class was because I was interested in learning the adverse effects that climate change is having on our world. I also wanted to learn ways in which I could become more eco-friendly so that I could not only change my own lifestyle, but also the lifestyles of my friends and family too.

After taking this class, I am not only more aware of my own consumption, but other people’s consumption as well. There have been several times where I picked an aluminum can out of the trash and put it in the recycle bin just a few feet away. I even got my mother to purchase reusable bags for the grocery store and am very proud that she is actually using them!

While I realize that all of these steps are small, I feel good that I am slowly becoming more environmentally friendly. I think that large corporations are not going to change the world, but rather individuals who make that decision and then influence others. I am proud to say that I am now one of those kinds of people, and that hopefully, if we all work together, we can give back more than we have already taken from our beautiful planet.

Photo courtesy of Google.


Ira Glass by genghiskuhn
April 24, 2008, 5:04 pm
Filed under: Society + Media

If you are interested in hearing more Ira Glass on storytelling:

John K

Celebs love the earth, too! by denah
April 23, 2008, 2:01 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

Happy Belated Earth Day, everyone!

I know this is a day late, but a friend of mine shared with me this website (Huffington Post, for those who have heard of it or are readers themselves) that I thought would intrigue this audience. The site includes fun-filled energy saving ideas and tips that I always enjoy myself in case there is one more thing I can do in my everyday life that is green.

If you scroll down to the bottom of the website, there is a comedic video of the “Green Team”. A few celebs, including Will Ferrell, participated in the video. If anything, it is just a friendly reminder of how much pop culture, celebs and all that good jazz are influencing the green movement.

-Dena Hart


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