J500 Media and the Environment

Media for Thought by julianat
April 15, 2008, 4:04 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , ,

Media makes me nauseous.

I have been exposed to a whirlwind of environmental media stories and world news on suffering, violence and hunger. Between the two, I’ve been left feeling skeptical and helpless. I would consider myself pretty well-informed on environmental issues. I live a life more green, and would like to say that my awareness is enough, but lifestyle is not enough, it’s my own perception, and that of others that counts towards a more healthy earth.

The media, I would argue, shapes perception on what is good and bad, and what are important issues to consider. No matter how unbiased a report may seem, the fact that they are published gives the issue an upper hand on importance, and some of the most pertinent issues are barely covered because it is most likely what media thinks people don’t want to hear

Recently, media has shaped the environmental movement in ways that previous generations of environmentalists only wish they had access to. There have been copious amounts of environmental documentaries made, and mentioning a tip here or there on how to be greener, or how your business is green has become a trend. Media takes on a big step for environmentalism, but unfortunately it is ridden with greenwashing, and is targeted to comfortable communities rather than those that are seeking real environmental justice.

Being green is the new feel-good.

I think it has been established that media has done well for environmentalism, although it is ridden with contradiction. As far as access goes for environmental media, it only helps on how much you are interested in it. Since environmentalism is imbued in my brain, I think it is what I am most attracted to when surfing the Internet or reading periodicals, so for me, it is an enormous issue that I am hopeful that many people are being exposed to.

Then I talk to my parents, or coworkers, or someone I run into at the grocery store, and the issues are all jargon to them.

I can mention no personal experience with television – I barely know how to work a remote anymore, so I will focus on the Internet. The internet is an amazing thing because it allows you to cut through the BS that you don’t want to see, you search for exactly what you want to see, you stay on websites that have the same point of view as you, and the websites reinforce your ideas by showing advertisements that they think you would be interested in.

Environmentalism, just as much as any other issue, seems to go only as far as people will allow it in their mind, how much exposure they choose to have in their life and whether or not they will act upon it.

Although the green movement is getting large, is environmentalism still a niche idea?


-Juliana Tran


3 Comments so far
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Interesting post, Juliana. Believe me, I, too, am sick of the media (and I was foolish enough to pursue graduate studies in the field)! If you were to enroll in grad studies in the J-School, you’d learn about the Agenda-Setting Theory, which basically asserts that the media doesn’t tell us what to think, but what to think about, which in many ways sounds like the argument you were making.

Although I agree that the Internet allows for a more democratic distribution of information, I think it also poses some problems as a medium that you indirectly touched on, namely the “preaching to the choir” aspect. It’s quite possible to stay in your “little bubble” within cyberspace–picking and choosing the news you receive, the politics with which you agree, the worldview you want to hear…I know I’m guilty of that.

The struggle will be finding ways to get people good, honest information without having them search through all the crap that’s out there. It’s true that you can find anything you want on the Internet, but that also means you have to be actively looking and media literate–we have to find a middle ground that’s in between the passive response of TV-watching, and the overly-vigilant efforts needed in the Internet age (if that makes any sense…).

Anyway, interesting read. I really liked your point about Environmental Justice. I agree that we can’t lose sight of those needs in the face of the latest “greenwashing” trends.


Comment by rarab

Juliana – I’m not sure environmentalism itself is a niche idea, but it’s definitely a “niche” concern for many people. According to a Pew Research poll conducted last summer, global warming/climate change ranks 20th out of 23rd policy priorities for Americans. In all honesty, a lot of people don’t really care about it. Researchers found that individuals survey considered global warming significantly less important than energy costs, health concerns, and their own local environment. Also, a report that came out a few weeks ago by two Texas A&M professors concluded that the more people are aware of global warming and climate change the less they care. Sounds bizarre to me, but those were the findings. It could be the result of, as you said, “green is the new feel-good.” The “feel-good” aura surrounding green issues can be effective in combating the influence of “doom and gloom” scenarios, but it can also give the appearance that things are ok which could explain how more awareness might mean less concern.

Here’s a link to the Texas A&M study:


Here’s the Pew study (taken from Treehugger):



Comment by vincemeserko

Very interesting dialog. I concur, there is a glut of information and we tend to gravitate towards what we are already predisposed to (which might explain the shiny, celeb-y push in the green conversation right now. . .Global Green is cool, Brad Pitt talking about Global Green is cooler. . .).

Vince is on to something in citing that Pew study. We have a great opportunity to help people make connections and understand their bigger concerns (about energy and health, for example) are directly linked to climate change, which seems like a smaller concern.

We are not separate from our eco-system and we can’t survive without it. The recession, the war, even our love of Brad Pitt won’t matter if we can’t breathe our air or drink our water. . .


Comment by j500

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