J500 Media and the Environment

Emotional Connections
July 26, 2009, 10:45 am
Filed under: J840 Week 6, Local Events + Action | Tags:
The Johnson Family, Homeless in Lawrence

The Johnson Family, Homeless in Lawrence

Spending a lot of time with people at the Lawrence Community Shelter, I’ve developed some kind of bond with them and the organization. I have an emotional connection now, to the point where it deeply upsets me when an uninformed or untruthful negative remark is made about the shelter or people there.

I experienced that on the day of our advocacy campaign presentations for the LCS and lost some respect for that person. I can’t find any definition or description of advocacy journalism that includes includes an emotional component, so is it wrong to have these feelings? Does it mean you’re too attached? Is it dangerous, unhealthy, or unethical?

Talking with a family who became homeless after experiencing some uncontrollable events that anyone could, I realized how often and easy it is to take life for granted. It seems almost everyone at some point in life gets knocked down and has to get back up. This experience really made me realize that not everyone has the same resources in life, and getting up can be a much harder struggle for some. I now think a more appropriate description or name for “Homeless” would be “the opposite of rich”.

After a long conversation and evening with another man at the LCS, I gave him my personal phone number and told him to call me if he needed help, advice, or just wanted to talk. I realized the shelter is understaffed, underfunded, and can’t provide all the help necessary for their guests to deal with, and recover from, issues in life.

This learning experience taught me one person can make a difference, and has forever changed my attitudes towards and actions for people and organizations like these. I just wonder if the emotional connection removes me from any future journalistic endeavors.

-Dave D.

Sustainability = Constant Change

My personal definition of sustainability is: Constantly lessening environmental impacts to the point where needs are, and will always be, met.


Leapfrogging, or Leapsheeping here

As I sit here in our office/basement for yet another afternoon of environmental videos and readings, I’m often distracted by our “new” bookshelf, and thinking about what the hell I’m going to do with the coffee table that’s way too big for our living room. But one thing that really stuck with me from the videos & readings was Steffan’s discussion about leapfrogging…and that’s the basis of my definition of sustainability.

Why not bypass older ways of doing things if they are less efficient, more expensive, and polluting, and go directly on to more advanced and/or environmentally friendly ones? It’s sad to think we’re sitting around with solutions to environmental problems going unused, like technology to halt global warming.

Can change happen overnight and the planet be eternally sustainable? Doubt it. The “constantly lessening” part of my definition portrays a realistic approach. It means utilizing all available technology and methods to reduce impact. Maybe we should no longer tolerate the excuse of ignorance .

On a individual level, my definition means lessening your impact every year, if not every month or every day. What really was struck me from Leonard’s discussion was that 99% of consumer goods are thrown out in 6 months. That seems to be one way to measure sustainability progress. And I believe in many ways being more thrifty is also just being smarter.

Our semi-recycled bookshelf

Our recycled bookshelf

In our case, our “new” bookshelf is actually our old desk (with the exception of a few pieces of hardware needed to attach it to the wall).

Scrapile storage shelf

Scrapile storage shelf

I used the other remaining hardware from the old desk and scrap wood from a friend to make a new shelf in our storage room. Now I’m thinking about what to with that darn coffee table.

Our recycling of household/building materials is no where near the level or ambitions of Scrapile of Brooklyn as discussed by Seireeni. And I don’t think we’re anywhere near the point of sustainable living to ensure needs will always be met. I don’t know what that point is, but if everyone constantly makes progress maybe we’ll never know…and that’s the point of sustainability, right?

-Dave D.

Sometimes this is “balanced”.
July 10, 2009, 11:43 am
Filed under: Energy + Climate, J840 Week 4, Society + Media | Tags: , , ,

scale I came home one night after the 10 o’clock news feeling good about the story I did, feeling like “I did my job”. It was a story about a complex and heated issue, each side got equal time, it was unbiased and balanced. But I knew the majority of people supported one side, including me…so did I do my job?

The story wasn’t about global warming, but it’s similar in that it’s also a complex and heated issue. (ha ha!) As noted in the AEVS Survey, while there is general consensus among the science community that global warming is real and about certain causes and potential effects, there are still some skeptics. But let’s say the ratio is 90-10. So to be objective and “balanced” in a news story dealing with global warming, should 10 percent go to skeptics and 90 percent to other side? Or maybe more considering the AEVS shows most Americans believe global warming is happening and are concerned about it? It definitely shouldn’t be 50-50, right?

I believe Journalists trying to pinpoint the weight/air-time/print-space to give each side can be a slippery slope. If you agree with John Merrill, that journalists are essentially nothing more than Circus Clowns, it’s asking for disaster. But as Iggers points out, journalists don’t get hired without experience and degrees in larger markets (like top 60 for TV, and of course–national networks & publications). And I believe in most cases these journalists are more, maybe not objective, but FAIR in storytelling. (I don’t know if there can be true objectivity across the board in journalism, unless we’re all robots or something.)

Thinking about advocacy journalism, if allowed whenever and wherever, news might as well turn into opinion (and/or blogs). But it may be more acceptable on environmental issues. I mean, who can argue that trashing the environment is a good thing? There may be a trade-off socially, economically, jobs, etc. And I think the other side needs to be acknowledged, but doesn’t have to get equal time. Advocacy journalism about the environment could be seen as just doing a good thing.

But as I go forward, if it’s known that the majority of people are on one side of any issue, I like it to get the majority of coverage. Is that advocacy journalism, or just fair and “balanced”?

-Dave D.

A little Black & Blue makes Green
June 26, 2009, 4:04 pm
Filed under: Energy + Climate, J840 Week 2, Society + Media | Tags: , ,

I slightly wince at my computer screen as I type in the darkness of my lower level.  My lights are off in an effort to conserve energy and I’m downstairs because it’s the coolest place in the house.  A bead of sweat nearly develops on my brow as my thermostat’s set higher in another eco-friendly effort.  I believe a little “Black & Blue”, like a bruise, to your daily living habits and/or to your wallet are necessary for considering oneself as being “Green”.no pain no gain

Becoming “Green” may be like the old saying, “No pain, no gain.”  Rather than environmental efforts that are simply a by-product of convenience or saving money in the short-term, real environmental action must include sacrifices both financially and socially.

As an example of sacrifices, in a radio interview on the “Brian Lehrer Show” (4/20/2007), NY Times Columnist Thomas Freedman talked about rising the price of oil for 5 years. He said while it would produce short-term financial pain for consumers, it would force the development of energy alternatives, which would eventually drive down the price of oil for good.  Freedman’s key to Environmentalism on a larger scale is higher governmental standards.  And he said higher standards will drive innovation, and innovation will drive green (and green will drive to long-term financial savings and more jobs).

On an individual level, I think being green is holding oneself to higher standards, and to do that includes lowering ones “standard” of living.   With all the confusing and contradictory messages on living green as reported in the New York Times article (“That Buzz in Your Ear Might Be Green Noise”), I believe sacrifice is a big part of determining what is, and what is not, green.

-Dave D.

About me: Dave D

“I’ll probably be dead by the time our environment’s trashed, so why should I care about sustainability and environmentalism? And ‘Going Green’ is just a hippie thing, right?”

That was my thinking and attitude for a long time, but it’s dramatically changed. Growing up in a Kansas City suburb and throughout my undergrad days at Mizzou, I never intentionally did things to hurt the environment, but never went out of my way to help it either. Now I (probably) drive my wife crazy doing things to improve our environmental impact and am fascinated at new ways to improve sustainability both individually and globally.

I don’t know exactly when or why my attitude towards the environment changed. Part may result from experiences as a journalist and covering stories from eco-friendly initiatives, to living “off the grid”, to the financial benefits of conservation and consequences of waste. Another part of my change of mind, may be my concern for the next generation and problems they could face if people continue to think the way I used to.

Our first child, a boy, due October 1st.

Our first child, a boy, due October 1st

The more I learn about green initiatives, the more I like it, and the more I understand the importance and benefits. I don’t see myself becoming the next “No Impact Man” anytime soon, but do see my relationship with the environment evolving to, well, we’ll see.

I love my current line of work, but am pursuing a Masters Degree to expand my possibilities in the communications field. No matter what field or industry I go on to work in, I believe environmental initiatives will be a hot topic. And I believe more people, like myself, will be in the mainstream and able to say they’re actively “Going Green”.

-Dave Dunn