On media and the natural world…
As you may have gathered, I sometimes watch TV. I also watch movies; surf the ‘net; read books, magazines and newspapers; listen to radio and recorded music; and play the odd video game with my kids. Like many people, I consume a lot of media in any given day. And I enjoy most of what I read, listen to, and watch. In other words, I think it’s worthwhile.
But I’m also very concerned about the fact that in this society we use so much media and that so much of it does little more than promote consumerism, anthropocentrism and a self-centered outlook on life.
As I have written elsewhere, Bill McKibben reached an obvious, but profound conclusion from the experiment he conducted on himself by watching 2000 hours of cable television. As he describes it in his book, The Age of Missing Information, the overwhelming message emanating from the tube in the US is: “You are the most important thing on Earth … All things orbit your desires.” It’s no wonder our culture has such disregard for the natural world.
At best, the contemporary media landscape is a powerful distraction from the living world of fellow animals, trees, rivers and mountains. At worst, it is a force that dangerously distorts our understanding of nature and encourages subtle and overt violence to the planet. Wondering where the lions are, as the title of the Bruce Cockburn song asks? Pretty soon they may only be on TV and in zoos.
I believe that it doesn’t have to be this way. We can have a media system that fosters critical engagement with environmental issues and problems, healthy relationships with the rest of nature, and a culture of sufficiency and sustainability. And it doesn’t have to be boring.