ECO-PR: What’s the Media Teaching Us?
Mainstream “News” stories with an Environmental, or Ecological angle are starting to show a certain trend that might not bode well for the growth of the Greeen Movement. Regardless of whether it’s a news or magazine format for television and print media, the standard approach isn’t to package information with an emphasis on root causes, but rather to present the most sensational aspects of a story up front – either to incite added interest and curiosity, or even to evoke base sentiments of anger, fear and despair. All of which eventually lead to the despondency of a typically shell-shocked audience.
Much like any other tragic event or disaster, environmental subjects are all too often now being used to simply retain viewership by trying to externalise them beyond the reach of local actions, and turn them into into bigger “stories”, rather than tackle them as issues with potentially local solutions.
Since the Public Relations industry is at the informational root of a great many of these Media stories, perhaps this is level where more significant forms of social and cultural Change would need to begin. Otherwise, the Environment risks going down the same Media sinkhole that has turned stories about crime, human atrocities, and other man-made or natural disasters into simple fodder for more sensational content.
It’s now become far too rare to see stories that have been fully and independently researched to boldly present clear alternatives. For countless reasons, the Mainstream Press rarely maps out our collective options in a way that would stimulate further discussion and debate which could in turn lead to widespread evolution. Where would such prevailing trend lead us?
Spectators vs. Participants
Today’s audiences seem to simply expect trending environmental issues to be presented for maximum short -term exposure, resulting in key ecological news and events that come and go like any other violent crime or natural disaster. Thus leaving the audience just abit more disaffected with every example of their personal powerlessness.
As such, opportunities for conveying important ecological issues, and environmental activism, are being wasted. Instead they’re generally being conveyed in the same style and packaging that has dis-empowered Society from solving it’s other chronic issues. Crimes, and allegations of crimes are reported with a straight voice that avoids all liabilities. Disaster stories are shown for theri spectacular effects, while speculations on root causes are avoided like the plague, lest they evoke opinions that might lead to libelous actions.
By making us passive Spectators instead of active Participants, perhaps we will need to wait for the threat of genuine Environmental Disasters to break these Mass Mediated behavioral patterns here in the 21st Century, and create a new paradigm for mass-communicated Public awareness in the process…
The social backlash to this status quo is the politically correct, environmentally friendly Citizen who does everything they can to make a difference by taking a more local view, even if the results don’t extend any further than their recycling bins, and compact fluorescent bulbs. However effective this self-preserving and insular view might be, it’s still the social equivalent to jailing ourselves in our own home with burglar bars to gain a sense of personal security, rather than trying to collectively address the underlying issues of crime or violence, by openly attacking the source at every turn.
Aside from the ever-present hope that ‘solutions’ will simply be handed down to us from on high from our Government officials, there are two other main conduits for effecting Cultural,Social, Economic, and thus genuine Environmental Change. Perhaps, the deeper question becomes, how well will these institutions adapt to serve Public desires?
1. The Status Quo of PR and Political Favor
Although there is rampant cynicism around the largely ‘optical’ or PR driven measures currently being taken by our Governments, I don’t think that anybody believes that the Western World will change based upon how Lobbyists and elected officials manage to clear the path to a cleaner future for our Soils, Waters, and Climate…Not unless there’s a looming election to make promises for.
2. Market Driven Change
It’s likely unconscious knowledge that such changes will need to be Market driven. Of course we can only hope and pray that our Capitalist versions of Democracy are indeed representative enough to actually sway to public opinion (eventually), and present the types of new products and services that will be required to demonstrate what kinds of sacrifices the Market shows itself ready to bear…At the risk of even greater Economic turmoil, perhaps.
Yet for now, the status quo has been maintained, and the worlds fragile economies haven’t been allowed to be turned upside down by any simmering desire to change our very way of Life…In both the Western and Developed World.