J500 Media and the Environment

For every semester, learn, learn, learn… by rarab

Photo courtesy of bencourtney23

So, what did I learn this semester. Hmm…let’s see, what did I learn…What. Did. I. Learn.

Oh, I know. I learned that a certain local politician contibutes to the cause by not always flushing on “the deuce.”

I learned a lot about my classmates, namely that Lauren doesn’t want you to procreate, and that if I visit Jennifer, I’ll probably just “hold it.” I also learned what to do if I ever somehow get my first period.

I learned that I’m a bad person. No matter how hard I try to live an eco-conscious life, I’m still buying way too much “un-green” stuff (and stuff in general), I’m still putting too much trash in the landfill, I’m still not reducing my carbon footprint enough.

Through the artwork of Chris Jordan, I learned that I’m not alone in my wasteful ways…and that we’ll soon be surrounded by skyscrapers of Dixie Cups.

I learned about Environmental Justice, which says there’s no environmental safety for any of us unless it’s available to all of us.

I learned that I don’t agree with Adam Werbach. I learned I feel strongly that market reform is necessary, but it shouldn’t be the primary motivation for saving our planet–or ourselves. I learned I could go on about my difference with Werbach, but I learned to let things go, too… (I learned to take a deep breath).

What else…let’s see…I learned that we have a remarkably strong Governor–and a courageous Secretary of Health and Environment. I learned we’re fortunate to live in a state where some of our leaders are willing to see the bigger picture of global climate change.

I learned that corn is the devil’s fruit, that the ethanol craze (environmentalism unchecked) can lead to a food crisis, and that none of the presidential candidates are doing a good job of addressing pressing environmental issues.

I learned that a month of blogging doesn’t earn you enough money to buy a CD…unless it’s something in the discount bin. I learned that there were other rewards to blogging (and other hidden costs).

I learned that I was surrounded by a class of amazing people–some were silent in person but raged through their writing, most were funny, all were genuinely searching. It’s been amazing to read these perspectives. I learned that we had an incredible teacher who made it possible for us to talk directly to each other–and with people on the cutting-edge of environmentalism.

Finally, I learned that I can’t keep a post under 250 words.

So, good luck, everyone. It’s been an enlightening class, to say the least. I’ll be interested to hear how all of you apply the knowledge we gained from this semester.

And, of course, I’m grateful I had the opportunity to learn from you.


Photo courtesy of Vineus


Dear Post-Consumer Recycled Paper Diary by julianat
April 29, 2008, 2:55 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , ,

For the past 4 months I have learned that I am not alone.

I have learned that there really are other passionate people out there that wade through the quagmire of “where, how, why?” questions while waiting in the check-out line or before they step out of their door in the morning.

I’ve learned that the reason some people are skeptical of the future or climate change is because they are scared to think that their life will change as the result of the very way they have lived their life.

I’ve learned that people are doing their best.

I have been inspired by so many people who have stepped out of their boundaries in order to examine their actions and their effects on the environment that it has made me become more hopeful myself.

Although I am glad that people are changing their minds, and are now seeing through green tinted glasses, I still feel like there is still so much work to do.

There is so much disparity between people and ideas, places and things, even with the University of Kansas and the greater community of Lawrence. How do we get political parties to come together in order to change the way things are going in order to really , REALLY help the people? How do we get these parties to consider environmental justice for all their citizens, not just the wealthy few? How do we connect to all the people across the world and within their communities, to have them admit that there is a problem that needs to be addressed and unite in a way that isn’t economically driven, but life sustaining driven? How do we spread awareness effectively, do things with an open mind and an honest heart…how do we even convince our parents?

While these questions are all still in the air, I believe with optimism that we will survive, that we can come together and help each other out, because we have to, because we DEPEND on ourselves and each other, and it eventually will have to happen whether we like it or not.

Anyway, Thank you Simran and THANK YOU class, for sharing your opinions, knowledge… and for eating my snacks !


Juliana Tran

Sad polar bear

Picture from http://www.Icanhascheezburger.com

(If you don’t get it go to here)

Teary-Eyed, End-Of-Class Gushiness by bobbygrace
April 29, 2008, 2:38 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags:

Photo: scotersen, flickr

Last fall, Bill Woods, head of the Environmental Studies program, told me about a class called Media and the Environment. The class was going to be taught by Simran Sethi, who had worked with TreeHugger.com, NBC and everyone else, and that it was going to be really interesting, but a lot of work. I told him I was already enrolled.

Bill was right about everything. To make time to blog every week was difficult, but the schedule was nice. It taught me regularity and timeliness. Plus, the chance to blog about green tech for class credit only happens every so often. I strengthened my writing with the great tips I received: be personal, lead readers on, fact check, get out in the field, don’t be afraid to use humor, and so on; all of which are fairly self-evident, but brought to light by the most insightful and influential group of guests I’ve ever had in a class.

I learned about the systems of bees and ants, I looked up close at my trash, reaffirmed my hatred of photo-degrading plastic bottles, and learned on multiple occasions the stark differences between scientists and journalists in their ability to communicate. I still get a headache thinking about those CReSIS graphs. I learned through photo, video, writing, audio, but not by paper. I took from Simran and our guests, but learned equally from my classmates.

That was awfully, awfully gushy and apologize for that. I hope I wasn’t the only one excited about this class from start to finish.

Thanks, everyone.


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