Mass Media affect on Environmentalist:
A Cultural Influence
November 29th 2010
Mass Media affect on Environmentalist
A funny thing happened the other day when I was sharing some recently learned environmental information with my husband. We got onto a great discussion about the state of the earth and some possibilities that could come from the depletion of our natural resources. After awhile, my husband looked at me and said, “You’re not going to turn into one of those crazy environmentalists, are you?” Initially, I laughed and then I asked myself, why is having concern for the earth and wanting to change my family’s impact on the environment viewed as such a “crazy” act? Maybe being an environmentalist isn’t crazy; maybe not being one is. In the following paragraphs, I hope to elaborate on the negative impact main-stream media has had on the meaning of environmentalist.
There have been many times in my adult life that I have actively decided NOT to watch the news. Anymore local and national broadcasters report nothing but sad and depressing stories that are covered more for fear factor than for anything else, and stories on environmental findings are no different. “We get primarily negative news not because the journalists have evil intentions, but because the news media are placed in an incentive structure that makes it profitable to focus on negative occurrences” (Lomborg, 2001, p.41). To be attracted to negative situations is part of our human makeup. One could say, on average, more people slow down to look at a car crash than they do a scenic night sky. Humans are naturally drawn to negativity and mass media may be taking advantage of that; it is up to each individual to decipher what’s legitimate and what is not. “We must bear in mind that the stream of information we are receiving is unbalanced[;] we hear many negative and problematic stories every day that should not necessarily be taken at face value” (Lomborg, 2001, p.42). Mass media has become a much needed and widely used avenue for creating environmental awareness while assisting scientist with their intended agenda of manufacturing grants and funding to operate environmental studies. The dooms day approach is a great way to obtain grants but it’s also created a negative foreshadowing of any and all scientific reports and/or discoveries.
The complexity of what’s occurring across the world on an environmental level cannot always be easily translated in laymen’s terms.
“The communication and interpretation of science to the general public is achieved through a variety of media [.] It is understandable that environmentalists will want to maximize the exposure of science supporting their agenda. Unfortunately, the careful, measured language of science is not well suited to the sound bite sensationalism that is the typical mode of communication of most of the contemporary news media. The distortion of information that occurs as science is translated into the language of the popular media has led to accusations of press sensationalism” (Jepson, Ladle & Whittaker, 2005, p.231).
Sensationalism is a form of theatrical over-dramatization of news related issues; because environmentalists often use mainstream media to relay environmental findings their intended messages are often over-hyped for appeal. These repeated occurrences have had an adverse affect on environmentalists and the public their trying to reach. Many viewers have grown skeptical of environmentalist and their scientific findings, which is opposite of the change they’re trying to evoke.
In closing, it is common knowledge that mankind is having an adverse affect on the earth. It is also true that we, as a society, have the ability to change the size of our environmental footprint in the world. There are many everyday environmental changes that are needed to take place in our individual lives to maintain resources for our future generations. With that being said, one can only hope that environmentalist will be more adamant about presenting their findings in a less sensationalistic way, if not for the truth, for the integrity of science itself.
Jepson, P., Ladle, R.J. & Whittaker, R.J. (2005). Scientists and the media: the struggle for
legitimacy in climate change and conservation science. INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE
REVIEWS, vol. 30, no. 3, 231-240. Retrieved on December 8th, 2010 from
Lomborg, B. (2001). The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the real state of the world. New
York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved on December 8th, 2010 from