A Semester Reflection

Coming into this course I have spent four years studying the natural world, it’s processes, and humans’ impact on it. I consider myself an environmentalist and through this course I’ve learned how to become a better one. I wasn’t as much of a greenwashing skeptic before this class and I would always opt for the “green” option at the store even if it cost more. Now after learning all the techniques companies use to change the consumers’ perception of their merit I will do my research on organizations who claim the be “green”. Our biases and beliefs are decided by our personal perceptions of our surrounds and particularly how they are presented to us. The industries have locked into this and formed our perception to be altered. There are so many steps that have gone into the consumer mentality and even more steps to assure the cycle is continued.

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Thinking back about this class, I think about one of the first exercises we did in class where we formed small groups and described our own health history. Everyone had their own narrative which effected how the audience perceived that person’s health. The same thing is used with environmental advertisements. Certain facts are highlighted while others are omitted, giving a more positive image for the company. This leads me to the question I’ve been asking myself all semester, should that be legal? There are a lot of people who think there should me more mandates on greenwashing, pharmaceuticals, and in general environmental regulations. When actions done by companies could risk individual’s health, a community’s health, or our planet’s health why do we stay passive? I think as a whole, the demand for clear data and facts, both good and bad, should be required. In my opinion I think this would have to at least begin with regulating branding and introducing more third non-partisan groups to do research on the production and the product itself. Overall I think this class helped me become more aware of the effect imaging and branding can make and will help me make better decisions about my actions.


Katie McNulty


Talking About Climate Change


This week’s class is focused on climate communication. Yale’s climate change communication program focused on the public’s beliefs, knowledge, and preferences in relation to global warming. They also try to find the underlying causes of the data they collect. A study done by the group in September showed what they called a “spiral of silence” when American’s communicate about climate change. This term reflects the behaviors of American’s who claim to care about climate change but rarely bring up the topic in larger conversation which then discourages personal discussion on the topic. In another study, the group found that most Americans support the teaching of climate change in schools, along with the causes, consequences, and potential solutions. Yet among adults, climate change is a taboo topic.


According to the Yale group, one of the main obstacles in communicating climate change, is knowing the audience. The group has also classified Americans into six groups of audiences to target climate change facts in different ways. The six audience classifications are: alarmed, concerned, cautious, disengaged, doubtful, and dismissive. The first groups are aware of climate change and usually are taking personal action to mitigate global warming. The middle audience classifications have varying ranges of understanding climate change, and varying doubts about climate change. The last groups are skeptical if climate change is real and participate in activities which are known to add to global warming. Between these groups there is also correlation between religion, perception of public health, and political ideologies of the individuals. Either way, while communication with individuals in these groups certain criteria has been found useful to take into account to aid in spreading the facts. Some of these audience communication criteria are their biased towards the topic, and their willingness to processes the facts. Other criteria are their wanting to counter the facts with existing non-facts about the topic which they believe to be true, and their willingness to communication with continued discussion and acceptance. After learning about the six audience groups it is easy to understand why this “spiral of silence” exists in the mass media and in normal conversation. When you don’t know your audience it can be hard to know how to portray the facts. Sometimes relaying correct information in the wrong format can be just has harmful as the wrong information displayed in the right format. Hopefully the six groups will become more homogeneous and messages can be better distributed from the scientists to the public.


Is There a Climate “Spiral of Silence” in America?

Americans Support Teaching Global Warming in School

Global Warming’s Six Americas

Message Strategies for Global Warming’s Six Americas


Katie McNulty


Greenwashing of Palm Oil


Palm oil is used in almost half of all packaged products in the super market, like margarine, oil based soap, ice cream, and lipstick. Palm oil sounds good for the environment and good for you right? Palm oil companies have advertised using nature as backdrop and general greenwashing. Palm oil companies said “Sustainably Produced Since 1917,” but to create palm oil, rainforest in south east Asia are being destroyed. Giant palm oil plantations are coming in to replace the rainforests. In the rainforests of south east Asia and west Africa, there are many endangered orangutans and indigenous people. The palm oil companies are doing their best to greenwash palm oil as much as possible, while more negative press is coming out on the production. Even though there is massive habitat destruction caused by the production of palm oil, the companies who use palm oil will soon be labeled wildlife and climate friendly. Of course rainforest preservation is very important when thinking when thinking about the global carbon budget and climate change. Also when they clear the rainforest this takes away the habitat of the endangered orangutans, tigers, elephants, and rhinos.

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is an organization that is supposed to certify sustainable palm oil production. The RSPO should be a verification to the consumer that their product was sustainably produced, but this is really just another form of green washing. RSPO has admitted 99% of the palm oil that has been used was not harvested in a sustainable way.

RSPO says there is no point in trying to find an alternate source to palm oil because ‘any replacement would still do damage.’ Of course this is not true and not all resources have the same impact on the environment. Many companies are making pledges that their palm oil will be harvested in more sustainable ways, but they are still actively clearing land for new plantations. Palm oils may also begin being used as a biofuel, which of course is still more green than fossil fuels, but the green image palm oil companies portray are still not what they appear to be.

Katie McNulty

Calling ’em Out: The World’s 10 Worst Greenwashers





GREENPEACE Arctic Sunrise

In class we talked about environmental advocacy. One group that embodies environmental advocacy is Greenpeace. While doing research over the summer, I was able to go to Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise Icebreaker and talk to the crew about what they were doing. As an organization they are like many environmental advocacy groups, their overarching objective is to express their ideas on controversial issues of public importance; in this case it is stopping climate change and protecting the natural world. They express this idea by large scale protests, like the one in Portland a few summers ago where protestors stopped a shell ice breaker in a channel with kayakers and repellers blocking the path of this ship. They are also known for going aboard ships and taking them over. Greenpeace tires to spread their ideals with videos, like the one with Ludovico Einaudi, a very famous Italian pianist.

Along with promoting their ideals they also encourage environmental action and advocate a stance on many environmental issues. Most of what the Arctic Sunrise does is watch dog oil and fishing companies to make sure they are within regulation. With the continuing loss of annual sea ice extent, the companies are going further and further north. Not only does continued drilling add to the global climate change it also effects the arctic environment; which is already at threat of slight climate change because the Arctic is such a sensitive environment. Currently, the Arctic Sunrise’s focus is on the fisherman. They continue to move further north, which is legally off limits. There’s also issues with overfishing and bycatches. This is because their main procedure for fishing is bottom trawling. This process destroys the ocean floor and results in a lot of garbage which is just left in the ocean.

-Katie McNulty

Not in My Backyard


“NIMBY- not in my backyard: used to express opposition by local citizens to the locating in their neighborhood of a civic project, as a jail, garbage dump, or drug rehabilitation center, that, though needed by the larger community, is considered unsightly, dangerous, or likely to lead to decreased property values.”

In class we discussed direct and indirect experiences with nature. When people have direct contact with environmental issues, they are more likely to want to change the situation. The people who are not directly affected by pollution, poor waste management, and over population will be able to not worry about these problems and delay fixing them. This is idea is commonly referred to as not in my back yard syndrome (NIMBY). Unsightly or potentially dangerous operations often are placed in poorer areas where the citizens have little political/ financial influence. These poor communities often suffer greatly from these industries and dumps, yet they rarely reap any reward. We see this now in Standing Rock, in Flint Michigan, and in fracking towns of poor rural Ohio.

I think the location of mining towns, city dumps, and heavy industry is an important factor on why certain legislation isn’t being created to make our country more environmentally friendly. Poorer neighborhoods are usually subject to other social and financial burdens along with environmental and public health issues. This makes it even harder for them to make changes on poor environmental practices which affect them. More affluent neighborhoods can easily take swift action when environmental problems arise in their neighborhoods or when something unwanted, like industry or a dump is proposed to be in their neighborhood. This effects the citizens “sense of place” depending on what their neighborhoods are subjected to and what their neighborhoods can block. NIMBY syndrome can affect the self-identity and the collective identity of the people in these communities. I think in turn this will shape the view of how we perceive country wide and global scale environmental issues. In my opinion it also affects how urgent the need for political action on certain issues seems, depending on where you live and what issues your smaller community faces.

-Katie McNulty




Tactics to Turn Facts into Debates



Why is it when the majority of the science community are in consensus that climate change is happening and humans are to blame, half of the US population says it is all a hoax? In my last journal I talked about science illiteracy between the media and the science community. While, I still believe this is a major issue that should be addressed on both ends, it still leaves the question of how so much of this anti-climate change rhetoric came into the media?

Image result for snowball in congress

Oil corporations are using the same tactics the tobacco industry used to communicate the idea that: climate change (facts which may cause a drop in profit for their company) is not happening or caused by humans to create a debate on hard facts. Climate change is difficult to understand from a lay person’s perspective which makes it very easy to manipulate and communicate fallacies to the public. Oil companies hire respected scientists to support climate change skepticism, but these scientists are not trained in climate science and their fields of study are unrelated. A lot of the climate change skeptic scientists are the same scientists who said there was no evidence smoking affected your health and that we couldn’t prove acid rain was caused by Sox and NOx emissions from industry.

Image result for NIPCC report

Like tobacco industries, oil industries will create organizations that sound environmentally friendly, like the “environmental Policy Alliance,” to pay professionals to add skepticism to the public while sounding more reputable. Another example of this is the NIPCC, an organizations created to mimic the IPCC reports, but just give the exact opposite facts. The communications of lies all begins with some reputable voices and manipulating facts into uncertainties, then the debate begins and the media is even more confused because there are two opposing “facts” being presented to them.


-Katie McNulty


really good paper on concensus of climate change: http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/024024/pdf



Heartland Institute and its NIPCC report fail the credibility test

the major climate change skeptics and who funds them : http://www.lcv.org/media/blog/climate-deniers-taking-a-page.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

Climate in the Media

As we all know there are many deniers of climate change. This trend of thinking was mainly prompted by the media and social media. While most of the science community believes in human induced climate change, some people (mainly in the United States) refuse the facts and say this is all natural changes. While the trends of warming and cooling are normal within the earth’s history, the rates at which it is warming and the rates at which criteria pollutants and GHGs are being emitted is quite unnatural. There is much evidence that humans are altering the global climate on a long time scale, but because of lobbying by fossil fuel companies, the hard facts are now up for debate.

Some media sources will re-enforce people’s belief that the warming is not human induced, while other media sources will report on the facts. But like stated in Unscientific America, the number of science related articles is down. This is an issue the science community faces when trying to spread their knowledge and communicate to the public what is happening and what they can do on individual and large scale levels to help. I think one of the main downfalls we see in communicating about climate science is when scientists discovered the hole in the ozone. The scientists broadcast this information and most of the general public knew there was a hole in the ozone, but did not quite comprehend the consequences. This discovery should have lead to major regulations and changes in industry structure, yet nothing really became of it. The media is goal driven and should be monitored when talking about certain things especially science. The science community and the journalist community need to be better intertwined, and have no ulterior motives.

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-Katie McNulty