J500 Media and the Environment

Sustainability is Exploitation by staceyc08

I’m sure most of you have heard the saying, “Don’t talk out of both sides of your mouth.”  Well someone’s mother should give that advice to the government. 

Orwellian is used to describe the names of anti-environmental legislation.  I’m familiar with lobbyists’ and politicians’ bad habit of manipulating words to mislead people, but I didn’t know that it had a name or that it came from George Orwell’s novel 1984.  Tongue in cheek, I tried my hand at doublespeak when naming this post.

George Orwell

George Orwell


I first noticed that something strange was going on while listening to NPR report on Bush’s 2003 Healthy Forests Restoration Act.  The name was so nice.  I couldn’t understand why people were upset until I learned that it allowed logging companies to chop down old-growth trees under the pretense of preventing forest fires.  A disturbing number of similar initiatives and groups exists.  Clear Skies weakened the Clean Air Act.  The Global Climate Coalition tried to kill the Kyoto Protocol.  The Citizens for a Sound Economy believe global warming is a myth.  Their goal is to ensure companies make more money, or they help them skirt regulations or bend laws in their favor so they can make more money.

Distorting language and using environmentalists’ words against them makes it harder for everyone who cares.  It becomes necessary to create messages that overcome FUD:  fear, uncertainty and doubt.  To reach companies and the business community, we must frame environmental topics to show that clean energy or similar initiatives provide cost efficiencies, open new markets and create new jobs.  The difference is that these benefits are true.

Some think we need an environmental watchdog to keep the government in line.  Until then we have the United Nation’s Environmental Programme, GPACE and CEP to give us unbiased straight talk that we can trust.

– Stacey Chance


3 Comments so far
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I agree that many organizations do not live up to the goals that their names imply. And, the FUD concepts are important to overcome. How do you think we can create the trust necessary for people to overcome their doubts and trust what we are saying when there are so many storytellers out there?

Comment by susang09

You ask a good question, Susan, and it reminds me that all of this comes back to everyday people, living their lives and sometimes just trying to make it. David Clark said trust is gained by listening, and trying to learn and understand why a person or organization feels a certain way. I think we learn what is important to our constituents (and others) through research and then by talking with them. Listening and never telling them that they are wrong are key concepts. Instead, offer alternative viewpoints or information that relates to or can help their concerns, furthering the conversation. I think this approach could be invaluable to any situation. It helps people find common ground, which in turn builds trust because judgment is absent. The last step is being authentic and honest when developing messages. Use language in a powerful way that connects with the group you are trying to reach; like Jeni Rogers said, make sure (from research or conversations) that you understand their depth of knowledge about the topic, and find a way to connect it to their lifestyle, concerns etc.

Comment by staceyc08

Hey Stacey,

I think this is a very interesting idea. I remember when you and I were discussing the idea of a tiny footprint; what it means, what it doesn’t and how the McCain/Palin ticket is using the phrase on the campaign trail. Tiny footprint… it sounds so nice and mindful of the environment—-only taking up a tiny amount of space, only making a tiny harmful impact. Right? Wrong.

Meaning gets so easily obfuscated with the “right” combination of words. And it’s becoming more and more prevalent and more and more difficult to arm yourself against without a media literacy degree or some kind of awareness vigilance.

Marisa B.

Comment by marisabreg

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