J500 Media and the Environment

Savoring the Forbidden Fruit by justinlev7

What is this thing we call the Internet?

No, really. What is it?

dsouza_alanWe use it every day. Networking sites like Facebook let people access anyone, anywhere, in seconds. Google sorts and organizes more words and ideas in a minute than any human can hope to process in her life. Dazzling fortunes are made, used and wasted; overwhelming games and images are developed and stored;  trillions of stories are told.

This thing, this Internet, didn’t even exist 30 years ago. Now, it permeates our media environment. It is the purest manifestation of Enlightenment humanism, an endless library of human knowledge. Anything  and everything mankind has known and recorded probably waits in there like an apple in the Garden, waiting to be plucked and digested by some enterprising individual. It is collective human consciousness, literally resting in the palm of your hand.

Watch this video. You’ll like it.

Internet breakthroughs, like all technology,  advance exponentially. Where is this all leading us?

Some, such as the believers in the Singularity, would say knowledge and resultant technology are advancing to an impossible point where all knowledge will unite in a single ego, and individuality will cease (like at the end of Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End.) Admittedly, the idea is a little crazy… but so is the idea that Christ died for our sins, or that Energy might equal Matter times the Speed of Light, squared. Right?

Is the Singularity what the Internet is moving us toward? Perhaps… If so, I think we’d all do well to keep our eyes on that sneaky bugger.

But then, maybe, as Zen Buddhists would tell you, all technology is insignificant. Perhaps the Internet simply is, just as a rock simply is, or a picnic lunch simply is, and the responsible human should relax, observe and contemplate it (try to grok it, to use the words of another ridiculously nerdy author for me to be referencing). After all, humans spend so much time altering their environment…

This spring break, let your environment alter you.

Justin Leverett is done for the week. Shabbat shalom, y’all 🙂

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


Media for Thought by julianat
April 15, 2008, 4:04 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , ,

Media makes me nauseous.

I have been exposed to a whirlwind of environmental media stories and world news on suffering, violence and hunger. Between the two, I’ve been left feeling skeptical and helpless. I would consider myself pretty well-informed on environmental issues. I live a life more green, and would like to say that my awareness is enough, but lifestyle is not enough, it’s my own perception, and that of others that counts towards a more healthy earth.

The media, I would argue, shapes perception on what is good and bad, and what are important issues to consider. No matter how unbiased a report may seem, the fact that they are published gives the issue an upper hand on importance, and some of the most pertinent issues are barely covered because it is most likely what media thinks people don’t want to hear

Recently, media has shaped the environmental movement in ways that previous generations of environmentalists only wish they had access to. There have been copious amounts of environmental documentaries made, and mentioning a tip here or there on how to be greener, or how your business is green has become a trend. Media takes on a big step for environmentalism, but unfortunately it is ridden with greenwashing, and is targeted to comfortable communities rather than those that are seeking real environmental justice.

Being green is the new feel-good.

I think it has been established that media has done well for environmentalism, although it is ridden with contradiction. As far as access goes for environmental media, it only helps on how much you are interested in it. Since environmentalism is imbued in my brain, I think it is what I am most attracted to when surfing the Internet or reading periodicals, so for me, it is an enormous issue that I am hopeful that many people are being exposed to.

Then I talk to my parents, or coworkers, or someone I run into at the grocery store, and the issues are all jargon to them.

I can mention no personal experience with television – I barely know how to work a remote anymore, so I will focus on the Internet. The internet is an amazing thing because it allows you to cut through the BS that you don’t want to see, you search for exactly what you want to see, you stay on websites that have the same point of view as you, and the websites reinforce your ideas by showing advertisements that they think you would be interested in.

Environmentalism, just as much as any other issue, seems to go only as far as people will allow it in their mind, how much exposure they choose to have in their life and whether or not they will act upon it.

Although the green movement is getting large, is environmentalism still a niche idea?


-Juliana Tran

Reality of world opens the eye by denah
April 15, 2008, 10:49 am
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

I’m going to make a generalization here and say that most people’s eyes are not open as widely as they should be…unless it is something that applies to them. I’m going to continue on this rant of generalizations by saying that most people may not even look up unless it is something that particularly involves them. As some may try to deny it, we, as humans, are pretty selfish and self-absorbed. I know, it sounds harsh, but if you really think about the way that humans interact with the world, one another and the self (I have my psychology major cap on), the majority of humans will put the self first.

I admit to falling under this category at times. Yet, I always enjoy a good eye awakening moment. For example, like this one. It’s about time we step out of this box (or should I say the United States) and think about the world. How is the world doing? Is it hanging in there? Is the world happy?

It seems like the world is suffering a bit. Large populations are being stuffed into these small countries (for example, Japan) and as worldmapper.org claims: “Out of every 100 persons added to the population in the coming decade, 97 will live in developing countries.” -Hania Zlotnik, 2005

Well why did I not know about this? Why is the media picking and choosing what it is telling its viewers? Don’t you think the world has a right to know what is going on its own world!?

How is the world doing on an environmental level? Good, bad? Getting any better? You always hear these large numbers about the amount of waste we are consuming or how many trees are being cut down. Worldometers has an ongoing count of the destruction we are doing to our world. I think on some level some may have an idea of how bad this is, but honestly, even though it’s hard to imagine these large numbers, it still scared me. My eyes widened as I realized, “Look what is happening to our world. Why didn’t I know this before?”

I guess all I’m saying at this point is, why is the media so picky and choosy? Maybe the world wouldn’t be so self-focused if we were aware of what was going on outside our bubble.

-Dena Hart

Green Who? Green U by j500

We continue to have really fruitful conversations about what we can all do to reduce our impacts, consider our actions, become more eco-fabulous. But what can be done on a campus-level? Take a look at Green Student U and the Association for Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education for a start. . .One of our projects is to green the J-School but this may provide more impetus to work with Juliana (at Environs) and Jeff (at the Center for Sustainability) and go further.



Niche Media’s Green Obligations? by genghiskuhn
February 18, 2008, 4:37 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , , , ,

Bryan Welch opened his presentation last Thursday with a reiteration of a well-known journalistic truth: fair-and-balanced sucks. Instead, he proposed a more palatable idea: the journalist’s duty is to present his or her best crack at The Truth.However, Mr. Welch’s reply to a question addressing hot-button green issues pointed in an entirely different direction: “Well, for example, Utne readers like to be challenged.” This statement’s unspoken half, unfortunately, is that the readers of Motorcycle Classics DON’T like to be challenged. From presenting The Truth (sorry about the caps, I just can’t help it!), we’ve suddenly shifted gears to “creating communities of readers”. Is this Facebook or the news? When coupled with the intense user-feedback mechanisms he described, this means people will never have to read anything that upsets or challenges them.

The upshot: Do informed niche-media journalists have a duty to present green material in publications with anti-green readership? If so, how should they go about it?

(Next time: Natural Home AND Motorcycle Classics?!: Media Diversification Makes John Uncomfortable)

John Kuhn

About Me: Simran Sethi by j500

The official bio is below, but the reason I’m here on this blog is because I created it. I teach environmental and sustainability communications courses at the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications. I’m the School’s Lacy C. Haynes Professional-in-Residence, which means I teach, conduct research for my book, and work in the field. I’m also a courtesy faculty with the Environmental Studies department. I’m a freelance journalist the creator of Sundance Channel’s environmental justice series The Good Fight, and the author of an upcoming book on eco-elitism and the power of the prairie. All of these opportunities are amazing, but one of my greatest joys is bringing these experiences back into the classroom at KU.

I never expected to be an environmental story-teller: I have never taken a journalism class and failed the one class I did take on The Earth. I failed it because it focused on the shifting of tectonic plates and bored me to tears. To this day, I only care about tectonic shifts relative to how they impact communities. I saw the impacts of multi-national corporations on poor communities in India (after a long tenure at MTV News, making documentaries in the US, then being asked to join on-air and anchor the news for MTV Asia and create the news department for MTV India) and I knew I wanted to tell those stories. But I didn’t have the language to do it. So I went back to school to get an MBA in sustainable management, looking at the social and environmental impacts of business, and learning how to tell the stories I have the privilege of telling today.

This course is designed to give students the language and literacy required to tell stories about our environment – from how we eat to what we wear, from how we work to how we live. We don’t exist outside of our eco-system, and we all care about our future. In my mind, that makes each of us environmentalists, every day (whether we’re vegan or omnivores, treehugging conservatives or liberal businessfolks, we aren’t just one thing.).

What I hope is that, in this course, we start to see the ways in which we share values and desired outcomes, and we develop the language for bridging divides, inspiring people to action, and ensuring the sustainability of our natural resources for all.

The Official Bio:

Simran Sethi is an Emmy award-winning journalist and the Lacy C. Haynes Visiting Professional Chair at the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications, where she teaches courses on sustainability and environmental communications. She is currently writing a book on eco-elitism to be published by Harper Collins in March 2010 and is the contributing author of Ethical Markets: Growing the Green Economy, winner of the bronze 2008 Axiom Award for Best Business Ethics book. Simran is the founding host/writer of Sundance Channel’s environmental programming The Green and the creator of the Sundance web series The Good Fight, highlighting global environmental justice efforts and grassroots activism.

Named one of the top ten eco-heroes of the planet by the UK’s Independent and lauded as the “environmental messenger” by Vanity Fair, Simran has contributed segments to Nightly News with Brian Williams, Oprah Winfrey Show, Today Show, CNBC, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Martha Stewart Show and the History Channel.  She is committed to a redefinition of environmentalism that includes voices from the prairie, the inner city and the global community.  Simran serves on the Sustainability Advisory Board in Lawrence, Kansas and is the Chair of the City’s working group on climate change policy, education and outreach.

Simran currently blogs about energy policy and life cycle analysis for The Huffington Post and Alternet.  She has been a featured guest on NPR and is the host of the Emmy-award winning PBS documentary, “A School in the Woods.”  She has lectured at institutions ranging from the Commonwealth Club and Cornell University to Lawrence High School and Temple Beth Haverim; keynoted conferences including Bioneers by the Bay, the Green Business Conference, and the North American Association For Environmental Education; and moderated panels for the Clinton Global Initiative University, Demos and the Climate Group.

Simran is an associate fellow at the Asia Society.  She holds an M.B.A. in sustainable business from the Presidio School of Management and graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Sociology and Women’s Studies from Smith College.  She is the 2009 recipient of the Smith College Medal, awarded to alumnae demonstrating extraordinary professional achievements and outstanding service to their communities.

-Simran Sethi