Throughout the class this semester we have learned about a lot of interesting topics in the field of communication. When I signed up for this class, I signed up for it as and environmental studies elective, not realizing that it was also a communications course. The first day of class when we were going over the syllabus and the class, in general, I was worried that I wasn’t going to like the class at all. Luckily I was wrong about that because once we started getting into the material, the class became very interesting.
The overall structure of the class was really nice, including the blogs. I felt like it help me understand the material more because I was able to reflect on what we talked about each week and dove in a little further on the topics that were interesting to me. All three modules throughout the course made nice transitions into each other I felt. I wish the science section was a little bit longer though because I thought it was the most interesting, but that may just be because I’m a biology major. I also feel like this course will be helpful throughout my career and my life too. We talked about how these different topics are communicated and how that influences the way people view certain issues. This can be applied to anything that we talk about in the real world, not just health, science and the environment. With climate change being such a big issue, I think that will become a very big topic in the near future and will be important to know how to talk about it. As well as just communication about science in general, which we learned is not getting across to the public very well these days.
From starting the semester a little bit hesitant about this class, I’m really glad that it ended up being enjoyable and interesting for me. I’ve learned a lot of interesting things that I’ve also integrated into some of my other classes, mainly the environmental classes, which is great. I didn’t even skip a single class for the course, which I can’t say for all of my other classes.
As we talked about climate change communication in class this past week and watched Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary, many different issues were brought up and a lot of information was thrown at us. Much of this information from climate science comes from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which assesses the scientific, technical and socioeconomic information from hundreds of scientists around the world to understand the risk of climate change. This group looks at impacts around the entire world and the impacts that climate change will have on different regions of the world. There is also the National Climate Assessment that reports on climate change impacts only on the United States.
The National Climate Assessment not only reports on issues like rising temperatures and sea levels, but also reports on the impacts that climate change will have on infrastructure, agriculture, the water supply and human health, just to name a few. While all of this information is very helpful, most of it is not seen by the general public or even by children in school. So the problem may not lie with finding the information and making it easy to understand for people, it is in getting that information to people and educating them on these issues. The IPCC even condenses their report into a section for “policy makers” that is easy to read for non-scientists and includes all of the important facts. While the National Climate Assessment has a “highlights” section that, again, gives people just the important aspects from the full report.
As you can see from the chart above, most people (77%) agree that schools should teach climate change to children. With more people, especially young people, educated about climate change, there will more likely be solutions to the problems from climate change. The younger generations are the ones that have to deal with the issues and problems of climate change, so it is up to us to educate others and find solutions in the future.
Greenwashing is when a company or organization presents their products as environmentally friendly with vague or false information. In class, we talked about a lot of different products and companies that use greenwashing as a marketing tactic. In today’s society almost all companies use this in some way and hotels are just another industry that has gotten into the greenwashing business. Many of us have probably seen a sign in a hotel bathroom, like the one pictured above, that urges us to reuse our towels rather than throwing them on the floor to be washed everyday, or to turn the lights off when we leave the room to save energy. However, the lodging industry may not be in the greenwashing business to become more environmentally friendly.
If we think about what reusing towels in our hotel rooms and turning off the lights does, it’s that it saves the companies money. Hotels can use less water to wash towel and other linens and lower energy costs by using less electricity for lights. This trend in greenwashing at hotels may be larger than just reusing towels. Some tourists pay extra for certain “green” accommodations in their rooms, but they may not be getting what they paid for. A study by TerraChoice Environmental Marketing found that 99% of all the products labeled as “green” in hotels do not actually live up to this claim. The products are being labeled like this by the hotels themselves many times to appear to be “greener” and attract tourists that want t0 be “green.”
While hotels save by asking guests to reuse their towels, turn off lights and giving them falsely label “green” products, these savings by the hotels are not usually passed off onto the consumers. This shows a few of the seven sins of greenwashing such as the sin of fibbing, the sin of worshiping false labels and the sin of the hidden trade-off. In the end, many hotels claim to be “eco-friendly” and “green,” but most of the tactics they employ for this are just ways to cut costs and save money on their end.
Many companies use the natural world in their advertisements to appeal to people. In class we talked about four different types of ads featuring the environment: nature-as-backdrop, green product attributes, green image, and environmental advocacy. In this Coca-Cola commercial, nature is the backdrop throughout its entirety. Nature-as-backdrop ads probably represent the most widespread depiction of the natural world in advertising because they can really be used by any company, in any ad if they desire.
In this particular Coca-Cola commercial, there is a man sleeping on a picnic blanket, under a tree in what looks like a park. There is a Coca-Cola bottle sitting next to him in the grass, then is starts to show all different kinds of insects starting to carry the bottle off. The insects manage to roll the bottle down to a nearby stream where it then floats along and falls down a small waterfall, and finally comes to a stop. Meanwhile, there are moths disguising themselves as a Coca-Cola bottle for when the man wakes up. Finally, one of the insects opens the bottle and the Coca-Cola starts flowing out for all the insects to enjoy. This gives the viewer an idea that Coca-Cola is part of nature and that it is even good for nature. If the insects want to drink the beverage then surely it’s not that bad for you or the environment.
However, we know that Coca-Cola is not naturally in the slightest. It’s a very acidic drink, and people often compare acid rain to Coca-Cola so we know it wouldn’t be good for the environment if we just started to pour it in the grass and in streams all the time. It also takes a lot of energy and some harmful chemicals to make the product and manufacture it. Many companies used nature-as-backdrop ads to mask how unnaturally there products actually are. In these ads, they are not trying to sell us something that has a direct connection to the natural world, but the natural world is part of their overall message, playing the role of the backdrop.
In class, we talked about several different environmental movies that were discussed in our book. One type of environmental movie is when animals star as humans, such as in Finding Nemo (2003), Bambi (1942), and Antz (1998) just to name a few. However, these movies aren’t really about the animals in them. In these type of movies, the animals are basically humans. Sometimes these movies can have negative impacts on the environment and the animals that star in them though. After Finding Nemo came out in 2003, Clownfish sales increased by 40% and according to the Saving Nemo Conservation Fund, more than 1 million Clownfish are taken from reefs for home aquariums each year. This became a big concern for many animal rights activists and conservationists when Finding Dory (2016) came out earlier this year. Unlike Clownfish, Blue Tangs (a.k.a. Dory) are unable to be bred in captivity. This would devastate the Blue Tang populations even more so than what happened to the Clownfish because all Blue Tangs found in aquariums were taken from the ocean. In some areas, Clownfish are going extinct from over-collection and coral bleaching as well and are close to being endangered. Clownfish breed easily in nurseries however, so it is much easier to increase their population again, unlike the Blue Tangs.
While movies like this are entertaining and fun to watch, you shouldn’t immediately go out and buy a Clownfish or Blue Tang after for your kid because that could spell disaster for the species. The problem with many “nature” movies is that they support the dominant social paradigm that humans are superior to the rest of creation and are necessary to save, manage, or study the natural world. These movies also often put an unrealistic picture of nature in people’s minds. Anthropologist Colin Turnbull found that many American tourists are actually dissappointed by their African safaris becuase they have something like The Lion King (1994) more in mind of what it will be like. Many people just need to realize that the “nature” they see in movies is not the way it is in real life.
In class this past week, we talked about the spectrum of environmental ideologies and how they all fell between more anthropocentric, or human-centered and more ecocentric, or nature-centered ideas. On the side closest to ecocentric fell transformative ideologies, which included ecofeminism, among others. Ecofeminism is the idea that there is a connection between the degradation of the natural world and exploitation of its resources, and the oppression of women around the world.
When women are oppressed they are not able to make their own decisions or have control over their self and their lives. This results in women staying at home and taking care of the family and the home, and this is seen as their role in society. When this is the case, families are often large because women have many children to help them around the house, and also in hopes to have boys so that they will one day find a job and provide for the family. So you can see, when women are oppressed they usually have many more children because that is their role, and this ultimately leads to overpopulation around the world. When overpopulation occurs, more resources are needed to support all the people and this is what leads to much of the environmental destruction we see in today’s society.
Ecofeminism tries to empower women in hopes that this will also lead to the rejuvenation of the natural world around us. When women are empowered and given access to family planning, birth control, and education they are able to get out of this cycle of being the homemaker. This leads to less births per women and also allows women to be educated and get jobs. If this movement spreads wide enough, it will eventually lead to a decrease in population over time that will help prevent further degradation of our natural resources and the environment.
As we talked about in class, science does not get covered very much in the media these days by news stations. However, the amount that science gets reported in the news is not the only problem that it faces. When science stories are reported on, much of the time the facts are reported incorrectly because a study wasn’t fully investigated or a reporter only took the facts out that they thought would be interesting for their story.
John Oliver is a comedian on HBO in his show “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”In his show, he tackles different problems in America and goes in depth on all of the details. One week he did an episode on scientific studies being reported in the media, and he talked exactly about how many studies are incorrectly reported. He mentioned how there were many different studies on the pros and cons the coffee can have for someone. One study says that “drinking more coffee may reverse liver damage from booze,” while another said “coffee consumption may help prevent colon cancer” and a third stated that “coffee consumption-in either parent-may raise miscarriage risk.” From these many conflicting stories that come out on things, the public also questions how reliable science actually is.
A lot of this is due in part to the scientific community as well. Scientists try to publish as often as possible in the most prestigious journals as they can as well. This results in what is known as “P-hacking,” which is when a scientist collects data from a lot of variables and the plays with the data until something is found that counts as statistically significant but probably means nothing. Since scientists are pressured to publish as much as possible, many of these P-hacking studies come out that are likely not as true as they seem, but they still get covered in the news. This could be somewhat solved by replication studies, where scientists replicate another scientist’s study to check if it is accurate or not. However, these studies are rarely funded and underappreciated so there are just a lot of exploratory studies taken for fact instead.
For this problem to be fixed, both the media and the scientific community need to be able to communicate better between one another. This way the public would trust science and scientists more and help science get into the media more often.