J500 Media and the Environment

A picture can be worth a thousand words, but you still have to listen! by michellemcgown
November 7, 2008, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

I consider myself to be a good listener; however after this course and our research project, I’m thinking I have a long way to go before I’ve really refined my skills.

I feel like questions have really been the key both in the course meetings and in our research work and I love the term “active listening” as a way to make those questions more worthwhile. It reminded me that you can listen to someone and, in the end, not really know that much more than when you started. We’ve been encouraged to question everything. I hope that our group has really questioned the way that farmers want to hear messages about climate change.

Luckily, Simran has really pushed us to dig deep and explore each topic with as many questions as we can. It’s helped so much to hear the underlying messages and concerns instead of just the generic green statements that the common person knows how to throw into a conversation. As we engage in conversations with folks over green practices its so important to make a connection. We learned that farmers just want someone to speak their language which I think is true with everyone. No one wants to feel guilty over their actions but sometimes it is a little bit of guilt that can get people moving in the right direction.

I never imagined it would be such a skill to “frame” a message for someone in the right way. As a designer, I work with images more than words but I think even the way we convey messages to our clients can be very carefully thought out.

Michelle M

air rights by marisabreg

Have you ever heard of air rights? It’s the ownership of the air above a property… (so you can or cannot build on top of it). Strange concept, huh? Owning the thin air above a house or building?

Thing is, I had never heard of it. And then I did. And then I kept hearing about it. Everywhere.

Now I don’t know if, all of a sudden, a lot of people were talking about air rights or if suddenly, my eyes and ears were open to the phrase and I just began to hear it where I didn’t, or couldn’t before.

Since this course began, I’m finding I’m having a lot of “air rights moments.” I’m seeing and hearing things that I didn’t, and things are resonating with me in an entirely new way.

Having the opportunity to work on the CEP service-learning project, I’ve been able to explore the challenges and the excitement of trying to find the (just) right point-of-entry to engage our assigned constituency, the labor community. While this isn’t an easy task, my group and I have developed, what I think, are some great ways to start a conversation with members of the blue-collar community.

While I don’t assume that anyone in our constituency needs to have their own “air rights moment,” I do think that some people might feel disconnected from the current discourse and finding the right point-of-entry is a great way to start communicating.

My point-of-entry happened to be “nobody’s perfect.” For me, realizing this means that I don’t have to try to be flawless; I can do what I can do. And you know what? I am.

Marisa B.

Can we talk? by lizhawks
November 7, 2008, 7:26 pm
Filed under: Energy + Climate | Tags: , , , ,

As part of the CEP project’s ag group, I had the pleasure of interviewing two folks who work daily for two totally different third-party entities communicating directly with farmers. It was fascinating to me that the most persuasive sustainability messages these diverse entities use in their communication with Kansas farmers revealed their common ground. The bottom line is the wind will blow in Kansas. And farmers are motivated by the idea they could financially reap rewards if they were to utilize that once-cursed resource. (And oh, by the way, doing so happens to help protect the environment, thank you.)


It isn’t without irony that in thinking about the literal agricultural ground we all share in common here in the heartland I realized the concept of common ground was perhaps my most important takeaway. It really wasn’t about how to solve climate change. It was about how to find common ground.


We all approach issues and policies behind our own lenses of life experiences, influences and values. Farmers are no different. They depend on our commonly shared ground for their livelihoods, their survival, but they question whether climate change is really a fundamental issue. They want to know what’s in it for them. They need to be engaged on their terms, in their own language, by someone they trust.


We need to start a dialogue in which we can come to a common ground where farmers can engage, not feel blamed, defensive or politicized. We can find sustainability in finding ways to sustain a fresh conversation.


After all, going green is a journey. And each of our constituent groups has its own map.

–Liz Hawks


Wind turbines have been called both "monstrous" and "majestic" by Kansans. Can we talk? (Photo: allamericanpatriots.com)

A wider worldview of green by hilarywright
November 7, 2008, 6:25 pm
Filed under: Business + Politics | Tags: , ,

Before this class, my worldview of environmental issues was limited to what I would call a “heal the world-touchy-feely” paradigm. I thought of the issues in terms of making the world a clean and healthy place that creates a good environment for humans and animals to live and continue to live in the future. Some of the conclusions within this worldview are: air pollution is bad because it’s unhealthy to breath; water pollution is bad because it kills fish and is unhealthy to drink; and deforestation is bad because it kills plants and animals. The list goes on.

These types of issues are certainly important, but they don’t necessarily represent the full circle. Further, this worldview made it difficult to believe or understand that groups like politicians and businesses, which are often thought of as non-human (as in The Story of Stuff), would have an interest in the environment.

Being in this class combined with being in the policymaker group has widened my worldview to complete a fuller circle. Our group was challenged to link policymakers’ needs to the environment, which meant going outside the feel-good message of my worldview and exploring other aspects and benefits of the issues.

I believe my group was successful at meeting our challenges and developing relevant messaging for CEP and their policymaking audience. I am very happy with the way my group worked together and the outcomes we will deliver tomorrow in class. On another note, I thought the project assignment was designed very well in terms of the deliverables expected and the built in individual and group accountability. 



A more complete worldview sprouts new understanding. Originally used on http://explore.toshiba.com/innovation-lab/green


-Hilary Wright

Messages for a Different Kind of Policymaker by brookec08
November 7, 2008, 5:34 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

<!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]–><!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–>After spending the last month speaking with politicians and researching how to speak to them, I now have the challenge of framing messages for a different kind of policymaker, the CEO and board of directors of my company. While the CEO and the board are a different kind of policymaker than the city, county and state representatives my group spoke with, I believe the approach to communicate with them will be similar.

My first challenge will be to educate the audience on the benefits of embracing sustainability and being socially responsible. I think this will have a greater impact if I can successfully educate them on the risks of inaction as well. Secondly, I think it will be important to gather support from employees at all levels of our organization. If management realizes that sustainability is a priority of a majority of employees, that might encourage them to make it a higher priority on their own lists. Just as we found that politicians value the priorities of their constituents, I think the same will hold true for the leaders of my organization.

The final element that will help me be successful is to present a plan of action. By developing goals and then showing them how those goals can be met, I think it will help the CEO and the board see that this is an attainable mission. Being part of this class has definitely armed me with more knowledge, so I will be able to speak intelligently to our policymakers and hopefully make a difference in the impact my company has on the environment now and in the future.

Brooke Connell


I WAS a Horse With Blinders by jillwilder14
November 7, 2008, 2:34 pm
Filed under: Waste + Recycling | Tags: , , ,

Coming into this class I felt pretty good about myself and my green efforts. I recycle. I even take paper from work home to recycle. I’m going above and beyond. Right? Wrong.

Turns out I didn’t know I didn’t know. I had blinders on with respect to what I can and should do to protect the environment. Although I’m 100 percent confident I don’t know it all, at least I can say I’m committed to learning more. I’ve also recognized that a green angel isn’t going to fly down and tell me what I need to know. It’s my responsibility to figure it out. Ask questions. Make changes.

Fortunately, the CEP project didn’t magnify that I’m the only one wandering around in ignorant bliss. Turns out health care professionals, some of the most educated people in the world, are no green angels either. Many clinicians understand there is an indirect correlation between health and the environment, but they don’t have a solid grasp on what that really means. Clinicians aren’t familiar with the statistics around or long-term impact on public health.

While I learned a lot in this class, there are two takeaways I will definitely leverage in the future. With an overwhelming subject like global climate change, it is imperative communications are approached with authenticity and transparency. Not only will it help breakdown a complicated subject, but it will help empower people to make changes.

This class exposed me to the fact I may be a lighter shade of green than I originally thought. It also revealed the power I hold. Going green isn’t a destination. It’s a journey. I’ve found digesting the problem and solutions in a less threatening way helped me to feel empowered, and I’m confident this approach will serve me well in my career as a communicator.

Jill Wilder

The Other Side of the 45 by rebeccaly

There is always a ‘flip-side’ to a stance, argument – what have you. As our business group found out in our research for the CEP, the flip side to going green in business is that they HAVE to make money, that seems to be incrementally even more critical for small business, otherwise they might as well shut their doors and close the business. Making money and protecting the environment usually aren’t walking hand in hand.

So, if there was a 45 record (a small record that you could buy in the 70’s for you youngin’s) for businesses going green, one side would be the Donald Trump apprentice series theme song “Money, Money, Money – Monnehhhh“. The ‘flip side’ would be Counting Crows, “Paved Paradise and Put up a Parking Lot“. 

The whole business and green subject is in so many ways an oxymoron. For many reasons, being environmentally friendly and making money are the ying-yang of sustainability. However, this is for good reason, it’s really hard to build an office building without disturbing the trees, grass, dirt and minerals that you are building on – an obvious but necessary example that I use to make a point :-).

Although, as we are seeing in class today, there are some companies out there who really are trying to make an environmental difference and are going to GREAT strides to do so – such as New Belgium brewing company. This is refreshing and comes as a relief. Throughout this class, it’s seemed like all of these enviro efforts are HUGE, ginormous, uphill battles; and has therefore, been a little disheartening – to me at least.

My hope is that the few of us in this class have learned enough – and I would argue we have – to make a difference and pass on our knowledge. We can do it, even if it’s just one person at a time.

Rebecca Lynch

Apparently Hell Froze Over by rebeccaly
November 7, 2008, 2:11 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags:

This is not my weekly post. I came across this article while doing research for my group. Simran asked me to post it for those of you who might want to peruse it. Here you go… Jeffrey Hollender writes about ‘hell freezing over’ with Walmart.

Rebecca Lynch

Doing without reflecting is like eating without digesting by matthewj77

It’s a bit difficult to reflect on this project not knowing the outcome, but I’ll try.  I’m in the Labor group, and would use cooking terms to define how we’ve approached our audience – we’ve boiled it down like a reduction sauce, concentrating it to bring the flavors, or in our case areas of importance, to the forefront ,and at the same time, more palatable.  . 


Maybe the most interesting thing to me is the fact that I’ve found myself stereotyping on multiple occasions to understand my audience.  For example, I’ve used the word “townie” numerous times, and realize it has a negative connotation to it.  Sure, we interviewed members of the AFL-CIO and USW, as well as frontline workers in blue collar jobs in Kansas City to get to know them better, but personal experience and public perception has played a role and those past experiences are often grounded in negative terms.  But on the flip side of that coin I think we’ve all, as consumers and citizens, done the same thing with “environmentalists” and issues in that context, which is why it’s so important that we approach the communications aspect of these issues in new terms.


Marisa made an interesting comment the other night when we were discussing how our messages would be delivered to our audience – space and place.  As a society, we’re used to receiving messages from the news, advertisements, mailers etc.  We’re tired of being spoken at, and conversations are a way to be more successful in engaging people.  Spaces and places are seen as constructions designed to constrain and shape our lives – what I’m calling the Spurlock effect, immersing oneself in the life and culture of another to understand the issues that are important and perhaps even influence positive change.  This is especially true when speaking of the Labor audience, and I think the work we’ve done for CEP is not only useful, but actionable.


Matthew J

Believe-ability by jenjenku
November 7, 2008, 12:38 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , ,

Believe-ability. Roger Dick at Burns & McDonnell made me believe. He made me believe that going green, sustainability and being a good steward of the environment are doable within the entire business community.


This course and our work for the CEP project is none like I’ve experienced before. Certainly the intense nature of the course, fostered by the short timeframe, plays a big role; however I’ve never learned and absorbed so much in such a short amount of time. This course and project provided an enjoyable way to learn by reaching out to local businesses and talking with experts who have gone through the process themselves. Burns & McDonnell, as well as the Hyatt Regency Crown Center, helped me to believe that these initiatives are truly doable.


It is a journey but a journey that results in pride within your organization, profitable long-term ROI and becoming good stewards of “OUR” environment.  It fosters a positive feeling amount consumers and employees by portraying an image to employees that the organization they work for truly cares about “OUR” environment, “OUR” community and our place of work.  I learned from Roger Dick at Burns & McDonnell that he truly believes businesses will realize there is a good business case for adopting sustainable practices once they see tangible evidence of the success of companies that are taking the leap.


I’ve learned that by engaging in a measured and balanced approach to adopting policies aimed at promoting cleaner sources of energy and greater energy efficiency, Burns & McDonnell believes we can achieve a cleaner environment without undue economic hardship. He made me believe. Do you?



Jennifer W.