J500 Media and the Environment

Is the messenger innocent? by lizhawks

As a full-time working mom of two toddlers who happens to also be getting a master’s degree, I am fueled by my daily coffee. Today, it was Starbucks. While waiting for the barista to announce, “Grande non-fat mocha for Liz,” my eyes scanned the counter and fell upon “Good Sheet.” This is a folded mini-newsprint communications piece that Starbucks started offering on a “take one” basis to its customers. “Good Sheet” is defined as “a series of graphical explorations of some of the major issues facing us this election season and beyond…[with a purpose to] help inform you and stimulate conversation as you head to the polls on November 4.”


Surely green means good in Starbucks’ evaluation,” I thought to myself while picking it up, perusing. And, there on the back cover I spotted it — a blurb about coffee farmers and climate stabilization. As a member of the CEP project’s agriculture group, the blurb’s focus on deforestation was particularly intriguing to me. It said, “Nearly 20% of the world’s carbon emissions come from deforestation – more than all cars, trucks, plans and trains combined. So Starbucks is working with Conservation International and coffee farmers to protect tropical forests surrounding coffee farms. For every acre of tropical forests protected, we can help keep up to 100 tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere.”


Sweet! My caffeine addiction is contributing to climate protection! But…wait a minute…Starbucks is telling me this on a printed piece of paper? This message about doing good and opposing deforestation? Huh? On a piece of paper? Yes, it’s made of 45-50% postconsumer waste paper, but why paper at all? Shouldn’t the CSR “message” and “messenger” be in alignment? Or is sharing the message success, no matter the medium?


–Liz Hawks

Good Magazine Blog

Pick up Good Sheet at your next caffeine rush and join in the green coffee talk. Image: GOOD magazine blog

Liz Hawks

Whew, not another helping of political propaganda by hilarywright
October 31, 2008, 1:32 pm
Filed under: Business + Politics, Society + Media | Tags: , ,

From my last posting, it’s pretty clear that I have somewhat of an aversion to politics, so you can imagine my excitement about interviewing a politician. But the good news is that is wasn’t as scary or painful as I imagined. In fact, it wasn’t bad at all.


Terry Happer Scheier, From www.opkansas.org

Terry Happer Scheier, from http://www.opkansas.org


I interviewed Overland Park City Councilmember Terry Happer Scheier, who currently chairs the community development committee, which deals with issues such as pollution and energy conservation. Our interaction was friendly and open, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that she managed to communicate in a manner that seemed real. In other words, I never felt like she was feeding me political propaganda.

When my group began this project, we hoped to take our findings and hone in on what matters to politicians in Kansas. To get a broad scope, we interviewed policymakers on the city, county, and state level, and although they had their differences, by taking a closer look, we were able to find their commonalities.

 What was most interesting to me about the interview was how I was able to draw bigger conclusions from the small unrelated verbal comments and nonverbal communication throughout the interview. Interestingly enough, the most valuable information I received was not necessarily the kind of information I hoped to gain when I went into the interview. The one-on-one, in-person interaction allowed me to get a better grasp of the interworking of city government and how it ties to the big picture. I don’t think I would have been able to delve as deep or build this rapport as well over the phone or by e-mail.

Overall, I found the interview portion to be very beneficial to our final project.  I think the information we gathered helped us reach our initial goals for the interviews, and it is already proving to shed a great amount of light on how we should move forward on our project.


-Hilary Wright

Will You Pull the Pin? by cherileb


Rick works construction all day, then works in his field at night.  He’d rather just be a farmer; it’s all he’s ever wanted to be.  But like the other family farmers I interviewed, these days you can’t feed the kids on just farming. 


Many family farms balance on the head of a financial pin.  The weather, grain prices and fuel costs can throw off their balance in one season.  It’s a hard life that can be as unforgiving and unpredictable as Mother Nature, because, financially, it’s at her mercy. 


So don’t tell a farmer he doesn’t care about the environment.  Don’t tell her the climate could have a big impact on her livelihood.  Don’t tell him that he needs to connect with the needs of nature. 


They know it all too well.  They say instead of pointing a finger, give them a little credit, a little information and a little more support.  Give them a reason to trust, especially in this heavily politicized world.  One farmer told me she doesn’t talk politics with friends.  And she doesn’t talk global warming, either.  It’s a good way to lose friends.  It’s impolite.


Changing to sustainable practices such as no-till, wind farming or methane management isn’t cheap.  So tell me: how do we sustain the family farm in our push for sustainability? How do we help them feed their kids and save the world on the head of a pin?






Finding the Time by brookec08

Conducting an interview with a politician two weeks before Election Day has definitely been a challenge. Finding the time, just 15 minutes, proved to be a pretty difficult task. I was fortunate to get to speak with a state representative that serves on the select committee on energy and environment for the future, Representative Gene Rardin. I also selected him because I’ve been bombarded with direct mail for his campaign (a few samples below).

My goals for the interview were to find out where policymakers get their information about environmental issues, learn more about the major issues facing Kansans, and where renewable energy and the environment rank as a priority. I think one key to a successful interview, no matter how much time you have, is to be prepared by doing your research ahead of time. A few of the Web sites that I found helpful were gpace.org, sponsored by the Great Plains Alliance for Clean Energy, and also the American Society of Journalists and Authors Web site. GPACE had a section of the site dedicated to interviews with politicians to find out their views of clean energy and the ASJA site gave helpful tips for conducting interviews.

So what did I learn from the experience?
Everyone is busy! Not having time, is a poor excuse. But planning as far ahead as possible and being prepared can make all the difference. In regards to our field work, I learned that educating our politicians is going to be very important for the future of clean energy. I was surprised by  some of the comments that showed a lack of knowledge.

Brooke Connell

On the up and up by marisabreg

It’s a difficult thing to resolve the needs of workers for decent work, the needs of a (failing) economy and the needs of our climate in crisis, right?

Well… maybe not.

Like Matt and Alex, I’m working as part of the labor group and had the opportunity to speak with Emil Ramirez, assistant to the director of the United Steelworkers, District 11 (Steelworker Heartland) earlier this week. With Matt and Alex, we’re looking at the relationship between labor (workers, leaders, etcetera) and the climate – especially green/clean energy.

I spoke with Emil about “green collar” jobs, the connection between the environment and the economy and communication, among other things. One of the things Emil told me a bit about is the Blue Green Alliance, an association between the USW and the Sierra Club that focuses on climate disruption and clean energy, fair trade and reducing emissions.

The Blue Green Alliance is one of a number of national groups that have initiatives dedicated to clean energy and “green collar’ jobs.

To name a few, the Center for American Progress has a Green Recovery Program to Create Good Jobs and Start Building a Low-Carbon Economy; Van JonesGreen for All has a Green Jobs Now initiative to build an inclusive green economy with an emphasis on fighting poverty; and of course, Al Gore’s We Campaign.

All of these organizations are coordinating efforts to show that good jobs, the economy and the environment are not mutually exclusive. With the right efforts and response, the U.S. (and Kansas) can create/modify decent jobs with the climate in mind.

Marisa B.

Who speaks for the people? by alejandrooj840

            Some of you may have seen a previous post where Mark Johnson describes the green movement as elitist and commoditized.  It was no surprise that most comments to Mr Johnson’s remark followed the “I get it… but….”structure; and proceeded to describe where his position could improve.  After speaking to about a dozen people in the “labor” or “blue collar” category I think that Mr. Johnson may have been more correct than I would like to admit.

            One topic popular in “green” chit-chat (including our class) is hybrid cars.  One of the most popular for its “greenness” is the Toyota Prius.  With its motto “Prius for the People”, it carries a $22,720 MSRP ($25,565 with touring package).  Missouri has a minimum wage rate of $6.65 an hour while Kansas only guarantees $2.65.  If I were to forego everything including food and shelter, it would take me about 2 years to afford this car under Missouri rates and over 4 years in Kansas.

            My group has had the opportunity to speak with labor leaders as well as workers; and there seems to be a disconnect between their perceptions.  On one side labor leaders (who are not blue collar themselves) think that their constituency cares and is affected by energy and environmental issues.  On the other, all interviewees mentioned that they knew little about the subject and that it had little impact in their personal lives.  They mostly focused on immediate, tangible concerns such as the cost of gasoline. 

            So, as we try to answer the question “who speaks for the environment”, we should also answer the question “who speaks for the people?”


Alejandro Ogata

A Sassier (and better informed!) Shade of Green by michellemcgown
October 30, 2008, 10:18 am
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , ,

I’ve been working on dissecting my interview with Steve Swaffar from the Kansas Farm Bureau into smaller, digestible bites for our presentation on agriculture and climate change. As I’ve sat in front of the computer listening to the same clips over and over, trying to edit them down, I’ve been thinking a lot about how farmers receive information. I grew up eating breakfast and listening to Ag Day with my dad but I had a feeling there are other venues for info.  

I hopped on the web, typed in Agriculture News and found a national link and also a Kansas link so I decided to compare their headline stories. It was really interesting the difference between the two. On Agriculture.com there were 10 stories and 4 were sending messages regarding changes in climate, fuel sources, etc. On the Kansas Department of Agriculture site there were 17 stories and 3 had something to do with those same ideas. That’s 40% of their stories compared to a measly 17%.

I can’t help but wonder, does this mean that Kansas farmers are resistant to change or are they just not receiving the message? Who needs to be doing a better job of pushing the ideas? Is there something that could help them get small pieces of information without bombarding them? These are all questions that have been on my mind through this whole process. As our group sorts through the video from our interviews with farmers I think we’ll see some patterns that help us decide where farmers stand on these issues and how we can get them more information.

I recently signed onto Idealbite.com. Which touts sending daily “bite sized ideas for light green living.” I’m wondering if maybe there could be an adaptation of this for “light green farming.” Farmers could get a weekly news article and maybe some tips for making their farming practice more economical and better for the environment. Anyway, it’s just a thought but you all should check out the site, I love it’s tag line, “A Sassier Shade of Green.”


-Michelle M.