Environmental communications and the public sphere . Chapter study guide . Chapter 1. Study and Practice of Environmental Communication. The field of Environmental Communication
Environmental communications and the public sphere
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Environmental communications and the public sphere
Chapter study guide
Chapter 1. Study and Practice of Environmental Communication
The field of Environmental Communication
Along with growth of environmental studies, educational and professional opportunities that stress the role of human communication in environmental affairs also have emerged.
College courses are offered in a variety of environmental affairs.
The study of environmental communications helps to prepare you to enter many professions in which communication is central to an entity’s involvement in environmental affairs.
Growth of the field
In the US, the field grew out of the work of a diverse group of communication scholars, many of whom used the tools of rhetorical criticism to study conflicts over wilderness, forests, farmlands, and endangered species as well as the rhetoric of environmental groups.
In 2011, scholars and practitioners established the International Environmental Communication Association to coordinate research and activities worldwide.
Areas of study
Environmental rhetoric and the social symbolic “construction” of nature.
Studies of the rhetoric of environmental organizations and campaigns emerged as an early focus of the new field.
Public participation in environmental decision making.
The National Research Council has found, that “when done well, public participation improves the quality and legitimacy of a decision and …can lead to better results in terms of environmental quality” (Dietz & Stern, 2008)
Environmental collaboration and conflict resolution.
Dissatisfaction with some of the adversarial forms of public participation has led practitioners and scholars to explore alternative models of resolving environmental conflicts.
Media and environmental journalism.
In many ways, the study of environmental media has become its own subfield.
Representation of nature in corporate advertising and popular culture
There are a growing number of studies of how such popular culture images influence our attitudes or perceptions of nature and the environment.
Advocacy campaigns and message construction
A growing area of study is the use of public education and advocacy campaigns by environmental groups, corporations, and by climate scientists about global warming.
Science and risk communication.
Illustrates a growing interest in public health and science communication-the study of environmental risks and communication about them to affected audiences.
Defining Environmental Communication
A clear definition takes into account the distinctive roles of language, art, photographs, street protests, and even scientific reports as different forms of symbolic action.
Our language and other symbolic acts do something as well as say something.
In the book the author uses environmental communication to mean the pragmatic and constitutive vehicle for our understanding of the environment as well as our relationship to the natural world.
Pragmatic: It educates, alerts, persuades, and helps us to solve environmental problems.
Constitutive: Our communication about nature also helps us construct or compose representation of nature and environmental problems as subjects for our understanding.
Environmental communication as a pragmatic and constitutive vehicle serves as the framework for the chapters in the book.
Human communication is a form of symbolic action.
Our beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors relating to nature and environmental problems are mediated or influenced by communication.
The public sphere emerges as a discursive space in which diverse voices engage the attention of others about environmental concerns.
Nature, Communication, and the Public Sphere
Human communication as symbolic action
Because communication provides us with a means of sense making about the world, it orients us toward events, people, wildlife, and choices that we encounter.
At a very basic level, our beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors toward nature are mediated by human modes of representation-by our language, television, film, photos, art, and contemplation.
Public Sphere as Discursive Space
Realm of influence that is crated when individuals engage others in communication-through conversation, argument, debate, or questioning-about subjects of shared concern or topics that affect a wider community.
Diverse Voices in a “Green” Public Sphere
Citizens and community groups
Scientists and scientific discourse
Corporations and lobbyists
Anti-environmentalists and climate change critics
News media and environmental journalists
Chapter 2 Contested Meanings of Environment
Two early movements in the United States that challenged dominant views about the exploitation of nature- a 19th-century preservationist movement and an early 20th-century ethic of conservation of nature.
The rise in the 20th-century of a challenge to urban pollution and a movement to protect human health.
The discourse of environmental justice, which contests a view of nature as a place apart from the places where people live and work.
The related movements for sustainability and climate justice, addressing global climate change.
In the history of the U.S. Environmental movement, particularly, four major antagonisms define such recognition of limits, where new voices challenged the prevailing views of society:
Preservation or conservation of nature versus human exploitation of nature
Human health versus unregulated business and pollution of the commons ( air, water, and soil)
Environmental justice versus a view of nature as a place apart from the places where people live and work
Sustainability or climate justice versus unsustainable social and economic systems
Challenging the Exploitation of Nature
Romantic and primitivistaesthetics in art and literature- In the 18th and early 19th centuries, English nature poets and aestheticians such as William Gilpin “inspired a rhetorical style for articulating and appreciation of uncivilized nature”
A search for U.S. national identity- Believing that America could not match Europe's history and soaring cathedrals, advocates of a uniquely American identity championed the distinctive characteristics of its landscape.
Transcendentalist ideals- The 19th century philosophy of transcendentalism also proved an important impetus for revaluing wild nature. Transcendentalists held that “natural objects assumed importance because, if rightly seen, they reflected universal spiritual truth.”
John Muir and the Wilderness Preservation Movement
Muir’s influence and the support of others led to a national campaign to preserve Yosemite valley.
By 1890, these efforts had resulted in the U.S. Congress’s creation of Yosemite National Park.
Conservation: Wise use of Natural Resources
Utilitarianism: The idea of the greatest good for the greatest number, some in the early 20th century began to promote a new conservation ethic.
Pinchot, believed that conservation meant, “the wise and efficient use of natural resources.”
The tension between the discourses of wilderness preservation and conservation continues to be a feature in some current debate.
Today, both regional and national environmental groups in the United States continue to press for measures of protection for the nation’s remaining wild areas, while different economic interests-logging and mining companies, real estate developers, and others- also seek access to many of these same areas.
Public Health and Pollution of the Commons
By the 1960s, a second antagonism had arisen in the United States that contested an accepted view of nature as a space in which an industrialized society could simply dispose of its air or water pollutants.
With her prescient writings, Rachel Carson is widely considered the founder of the modern environmental movement.
By the end of the 1970s, concerns about health also arose at the local level. Communities became increasingly worried by the chemical contamination of their air, drinking water, soil, and school grounds.
Environmental Justice: Challenging Nature as a Place Apart
By the 1980s new activists from low-income groups and communities of color had begun to challenge the view of nature as a place apart from where people lived and worked, disclosing a third antagonism in prevailing views of the environment.
Emerging from these struggles was a robust vision of environmental justice.
At its core, environmental justice also was a vision of the democratic inclusion of people and communities in the decisions that affect their health and well-being.
Movements for Sustainability and Climate Justice
These challenges often are similar to the antagonisms described earlier-efforts to protect natural systems, safeguard human health, and secure social justice.
A fourth antagonism has, therefore, begun to emerge- the challenge of building a more sustainable world in the face of disruptive or unsustainable social and economic systems.
Chapter 3 Social-Symbolic Constructions of Environment
This social-symbolic perspective focuses on the sources that constitute or construct our perceptions of what we consider to be natural or an environmental problem.
Terministic Screens and Naming
Terministic describes the way our language orients us to see certain things, some aspects of the world, and not others.
Naming means by which we socially represent objects or people and therefore know the world, including the natural world.
Constructing an Environmental Problem
The social-symbolic construction of nature arises from this ability to characterize certain facts or conditions one way rather than another and, therefore, to name it as a problem or not a problem.
A Rhetorical Perspective
The study of rhetoric traces its origins to classical Greek philosopher-teachers such as Isocrates(436-338 bce) and Aristotle ( 384-322 bce)
Aristotle defined rhetoric as the ability of discovering “in any given case the available means of persuasion”
Traditionally rhetoric has been viewed as an instrumental or pragmatic activity- persuading others-its use clearly has a second function: The purposeful use of language also helps to shape (or constitute) our perception of the world itself.
Rhetorical Tropes and Genres
Rhetorical tropes refer to the use of words that turn a meaning from its original sense in a new direction for a persuasive purpose.
Rhetorical genres are generally defined as distinct forms or types of speech that “share characteristics distinguishing them” from other types of speech.
The term frame was first popularized by sociologist Erving Goffman (1974) in his book Frame Analysis.
He defines frames as the cognitive maps or patterns of interpretation that people use to organize their understanding of reality.
The example of a public health frame illustrates the role of framing in the construction of a problem or recommendation of a solution.
Dominant and Critical Discourses
This concept of discourse reminds us that rhetorical resources are broader than any single metaphor, frame, or utterance.
Discourse is a recurring pattern of speaking or writing that has developed socially, that is, from multiple sources; it functions to “circulate a coherent set of meanings about important topic”.
When a discourse gains a broad or taken-for-granted status in a culture or when its meanings help to legitimize certain practices, it can be said to be a dominate discourse.
Alternative ways of speaking, writing, or portraying nature in art, music, and photographs illustrate critical discourse.
Visual Rhetorics: Portraying Nature
Visual images have been influential in shaping Americans’ perceptions of the environment at least since the 18th and the 19th centuries, particularly in paintings and photographs of the American West.
Two ways in which visual rhetorics of the environment function to persuade:
By influencing our perceptions or the way we see certain aspects of the environment
By constructing what the public believes is an environmental problem
Visualizing Environmental Problems
The lack of visual evidence of climate change has been a problem for scientists in educating the public of the problem.
Visual images can be sites of contestation, that is, opponents my challenge or seek to suppress a powerful image, or they may use a very different image to visualize the same set of conditions.
Chapter 4 Public Participation in Environmental Decisions
Public participation is the principle that “those who are affected by a decision have a right to be involved in the decision have a right to be involved in the decision-making process.”
The right to know reflects the principle of transparency
The right to comment reflects the principle of direct participation in democratic decisions.
The right of standing assumes the principle of accountability.
As a result of public pressure for grater access to information, the U.S. Congress passed the Freedom of Information Act in 1966.
In 1996 the Congress amended FOIA by passing the Electronic Freedom of Information Amendments.
Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act
Passed in 1986
The law requires industries to report to local and state emergency planners the use and location of specified chemicals and their facilities.
Right to Public Comment
Public comment typically takes the form of in-person, spoken testimony at public hearings exchanges of views at open meetings, written communication to agencies and participation on citizen advisory panels.
The right to comment is listed under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970.
NEPA requires federal agencies to prepare a detailed environmental impact statement (EIS) for any proposed legislation or major actions “significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.”
Public hearings and Citizen Comments
Public hearings are forums for public comments before an agency takes action that might significantly affect the environment.
The comments themselves at public meetings may be polite or passionate, restrained or angry, or informed or highly opinionated and emotional.
Standing and Citizen Suits
The right of citizens to standing developed originally from common law, wherein individuals who have suffered and injury in fact to a legally protected right to seek redress in court.
In 1946 Administrative Procedure Act broadened the right of judicial review for persons “suffering a legal wrong because of agency action, or adversely affected or aggrieved by agency action.”
The second expansion of standing came in the form of citizen suits in major environmental laws.
Landmark Cases on Environmental Standing
Citizens’ claims to the right of standing are subject not only to the provisions of specific statutes but also to judicial interpretations of the cases and controversies clause in Article III of the U.S. Constitution.
To determine if a party is a “true adversary,” to U.S. Supreme Court uses three tests
Persons bringing a case must be able to prove an injury in fact
This injury must be “fairly traceable” to an action of the defendant
The Court must be able to redress the injury through a favorable ruling
Growth of Public Participation Internationally
In the past decade more and more nations have begun to guarantee public access to information and implement various forms of public participation in governmental decisions about the environment.
Chapter 5 Managing Conflict: Collaboration and Environmental Disputes
The dissatisfaction with some form of public participation, such as public hearings, has pushed people to find alternatives for managing environmental conflicts: citizens’ advisory committees, natural resources partnerships, and community-based collaborations.
Collaborating to Resolve Environmental conflicts
Collaboration is less competitive.
Collaboration features mutual learning and fact finding.
Collaboration allows underlying value differences to be explored.
Collaboration resembles principled negotiation, focusing on the interests rather than positions.
Collaboration allocates the responsibility for implementation across may parties.
Collaboration’s conclusions are generated by participants throught an interactive, iterative, and reflective process.
Collaboration is often an ongoing process.
Collaboration has the potential to build individual and community capacity in such areas as conflict management, leadership, decision making, and communications.
Two other forms of conflict resolution
Arbitration is usually court ordered and involves the presentation of opposing views to a neutral third-party individual or panel that, in turn, renders a judgment about the conflict.
Mediation is a facilitated effort entered into voluntarily or at the suggestion of a court, counselor, or other institution.
Requirements for Successful Collaboration
Relevant stakeholders are at the table.
Participants adopt a problem-solving approach.
All participants have access to necessary resources and opportunities to participate in discussions.
Decisions usually are reached by consensus.
Relevant agencies are guided by the recommendations of the collaboration.
Limits of Collaboration and Consensus
Three-part model for assessing the different forms of public participation in environmental decisions, called the Trinity of Voices (TOV).
This model builds on the importance of the stakeholder and on many of the characteristics we identified earlier for effective collaboration.
Common Criticisms of Collaboration
Stakeholders may be unrepresentative of wider publics
Place-based collaboration my encourage exceptionalism or a compromise of national standards.
Power inequities my lead to co-optation.
Pressure for consensus my lead to the lowest common denominator.
Consensus tends to delegitimize conflict and advocacy.
Collaborative groups my lack authority to implement their decisions.
Irreconcilable values may hinder agreement.
Chapter 6 News Media and Environmental Journalism
Traditional news media
Newspapers, news magazines, network television news, and radio news programs.
Online News sites
Blogs and environmental news services
Growth and Nature of Environmental News
Inevitably, contemporary news “is largely event focused and event driven,” and it is this norm that is important in determining “which environmental issues get news coverage and which don’t” (Hansen, 2010, P. 95)
Rise and Fall of Environmental News
With the rise of an ecology movement in the late 1960s, environmental news grew in coverage and reached an early peak after Earth Day during the early 1970s.
Its saw a low in the 1980s and another high point in 1989.
Differing Views of Nature in Media
Media classified by four major themes by Meisner
Nature as a victim
Nature as a sick patient
Nature as a problem
Nature as a resource
News Production and the Environment
Journalistic Norms and Constraints
One of the most important of the practices that affect environmental news reporting is the value or newsworthiness of a story.
“central organizing themes…that connect different semantic elements of a news story into a coherent whole to suggest what is at issue” (Pan and Kosicki 1993)
Norms of Objectivity and Balance
The values of objectivity and balance have been bedrock norms of journalism for almost a century.
Particularly in environmental journalism, reporters struggle to maintain genuine objectivity.
Balance usually is taken to mean a responsibility to report all sides of story, particularly when there is a controversy.
Other Influences of Environmental Journalists
Political Economy of News Media
Refers to the influence of ownership and the economic interests of the owners of newspapers and television networks on the news content of these media sources.
Gatekeeping and Newsroom Routines
The decisions of editors and media managers to cover or not cover certain environmental stories illustrates what has been called the gatekeeping role.
Many editors and newsrooms find it particularly difficult to deal with the environmental beat for two reasons:
First, the unobtrusive or “invisible” nature of many environmental problems makes it hard for reporters to fit these stories into conventional news formats.
Environmental issues can be difficult to report because few reporters have training in science or knowledge of complex environmental problems such as ground water pollution.
Climate Change in the News (or Not)
Is Climate Change Newsworthy?
One reason is that social scientists and communication specialists are finding that the nature of climate change is more difficult to communicate than other environmental issues.
Cohen (1963) first suggested the idea of agenda setting to distinguish between individual opinion and the public’s perception of the salience or importance of an issue.
Refers to the ways in which media organize the bits and facts of phenomena through stories to aid audiences’ understanding and the potential for the organization to affect our relationships to the phenomena being represented.
“a theory of story-telling, which assumes that repeated exposure to a set of messages is likely to produce agreement in an audience with opinions expressed in …those messages”(pp. 186-187)
Chapter 7 Social Media and the Environmental Online
Environmental Journalism Migrates Online
Environmental News Services
The online environmental news services offered the widest access to both working journalists and readers looking for more in-depth environmental news and timely information.
Journalists’ Blogs and the Green Blogosphere
The fastest-growing source for online news and analyses of environmental topics actually has not been the environmental news services but the blogosphere.
A blog is an online site that is authored by and individual or collective authors and that posts information or commentary about specific topics; blogs also feature video and graphics.
Social Media and the Environment
In the last five to seven years, social media have dramatically altered the landscape for environmental communication.
Social media can be defined as the use of web-based technologies and mobile applications for personal interactions.
Environmental Information and Buzz
Social news sources and RSS feeds are ways that individuals increasingly can easily access environmental information or stories in a timely manner.
Green Communities and Social Networking
Facebook serves as a bridge for local communities and citizens who rely upon the EPA for guidance, information, and technical help; the site also invites comments on EPA policies and programs.
Reporting and Documenting
Citizens, researchers, and environmental groups are using mobile apps, digital cameras, smartphones, iPads, and online registries to document their observations of the natural world or report environmental problems to others.
Public Criticism and Accountability
With Facebook, Twitter, and other social media, the reach of public scrutiny and criticism has accelerated dramatically.
Social media also are regularly used to mobilize supporters and the general public in support of various environmental causes.
Today, environmental, climate, and social justice activists are using the full suite of social media in their organizing efforts.
Microvolunteering and Self-Organizing
Refers to sites that allow people to do small, bite-sized tasks via mobile apps, which sponsors believe will have meaningful results for different environmental groups or charitable causes.
Self-organizing refers to the ability of individuals, through what are often called bottom-up websites, to initiate actions via social media that actively engage others.
Social Media and Environmental Advocacy
Opposing Offshore Oil Drilling
One of the principal use of social media during the Gulf oil spill was the airing of public criticism of BP officials who seemed incompetent or uncaring.
While social media made possible an outpouring of criticism of BP and oil drilling, it is, nevertheless, important to note that this communication likely had a very limited effect on the company or on energy policy.
Future Trends: Challenges and Obstacles for Environmental Social Media
Mobile applications on smartphones, Twitter, iPads, notebooks, and so on, will be our main portals for information online.
Environmental Video Networks
A term originating form digital media developers and is defined as “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts”