Headlining Energy Issues: A Content Analysis of Ethanol Headlines in the U.S. Elite Press

Bruno Takahashi, Carol Terracina-Hartman, Katie Amann, and Mark S. Meisner “Headlining Energy Issues: A Content Analysis of Ethanol Headlines in the U.S. Elite Press,” presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) 2014 Conference, Montréal, Québec, August 8, 2014. Continue reading

Environmental Communication: Research into Practice

In about a month I will begin teaching a new course on environmental communication through the International Environmental Communication Association (IECA). Here is the course description:

Environmental Communication: Research Into Practice

Online course: June 9 to July 17, 2014

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Consciousness Raising

Achieving_Sustainability_CoverMark S. Meisner “Consciousness Raising,” in Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices, Vol. 1, Ed. Debra Rowe, pp.155-158. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2014.

“As a strategy for social change, consciousness raising can be defined as a form of communication or any activity aimed at increasing people’s awareness of specific conditions and/or ways to address them. In the sustainability context, this means raising awareness about social and environmental issues and problems, as well as about sustainable alternatives. For example, consciousness raising can mean educating people about the risks of biocides and the industrial food system as well as promoting local organic agriculture as an alternative. Either way, the purpose is to get the broader public interested in the cause and then engaged in doing something about it. Consciousness raising is thus a crucial first step in solving social problems….”

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Agenda Setting and Issue Definition at the Micro Level: Giving Climate Change a Voice in the Peruvian Congress

Congress of PeruBruno Takahashi & Mark S. Meisner “Agenda Setting and Issue Definition at the Micro Level: Giving Climate Change a Voice in the Peruvian Congress,” Latin American Policy, 4(2). 340-357, 2013.

Abtract

Agenda setting and policy formulation processes, including those involved in global issues such as climate change, have been a focus of continuous research during recent years. However, most studies have taken a broad longitudinal perspective, with limited emphasis on the individual level decision-making that can better explain the broader dynamics thoroughly tested in the past. This study presents an analysis at the micro level that uncovers specific instances of individual decision-making within an information-processing framework. Additionally, little is known about how climate change is defined in developing nations that are highly vulnerable to its effects. Therefore, this micro level analysis focuses on national legislators and advisers in the Peruvian Congress.  This paper presents a detailed narrative of the processes of formulation of several climate change bills and the development of a special committee on climate change and biodiversity in the 2006-2011 legislative period in the Peruvian Congress. The study discusses the role of policy entrepreneurs, the influence of limited or inaccurate information, and the competition with other policy issues, through an analysis of in-depth interviews with these legislative elites. The results show the significant influence of media reports and Internet use in a low information environment.

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Re-examining the Media-Policy Link: Climate Change and Government Elites in Peru

CulturePoliticsandClimateChangeBruno Takahashi & Mark S. Meisner “Re-examining the Media-Policy Link: Climate Change and Government Elites in Peru,” Chapter 6 in Culture, Politics & Climate Change: How Information Shapes our Common Future, Edited by Deserai A. Crow and Maxwell T. Boykoff. London: Routledge, 2014.

Abstract

The ways in which the mass media report on policy and scientific issues such as climate change have an influence on the attention to–and understanding of–such issues by decision makers. However, the study of such influence has been quite limited. This chapter is motivated by this gap in the literature, as well as by limited research about media and climate change in developing countries. We want to understand the ways in which media coverage of climate change interacts with individual traits (e.g. values, knowledge, attitudes) of national legislators in Peru, and how such interaction influences the design of policies. Additionally, it focuses on the circumstances that allow such effects to occur. The results reveal that a low policy information environment, coupled with issue attributes, enables both the media and alternative sources of information such as the Internet to play an important role in shaping how legislators perceive the issue and act upon it. In a highly vulnerable country such as Peru, the need to increase information of local issues related to climate change is necessary.

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Special: Environmental Communication Research

Here is an interview I did with Florian Kaefer for his Sustainable Futures blog. Sorry, but with a reblog I can’t control how the images are displayed and we are stuck with a massive logo for The IECA and yet another profile picture of me. Your best bet is to head over to the original post as quickly as possible. Then go to The IECA site and join up!

Wondering where the lions are

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.

TV & Nature

The Nature of Time: How the Covers of the World’s Most Widely-Read Weekly News Magazine Visualize Environmental Affairs

Time-1970-02-02Mark S. Meisner & Bruno Takahashi “The Nature of Time: How the Covers of the World’s Most Widely-Read Weekly News Magazine Visualize Environmental Affairs,” Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture, Vol.7 No.2, pp. 255-276, 2013.

Abstract

Scholars of environmental communication acknowledge the importance of visual representations in shaping perceptions and actions in relation to environmental affairs. Unlike with other media, including newspapers, television and film, research on the visualization of nature and environmental issues in magazines is rare. This study focuses on the covers of Time magazine, one of the world’s most influential news weeklies. A data set that includes all relevant covers from 1923 to 2011 is examined using a combination of quantitative and qualitative content analysis to analyze the visual representation of nature and environmental issues. The results show that the presence of environmental issues and nature on the covers has increased over the decades. Furthermore Time takes an advocacy position on some environmental issues, but it is a shallow one that is weakly argued through less-than-engaging imagery and fails to offer much in the way of solutions or agency to the reader.

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So it’s all good then

On the so-called environmental crisis…

Singer-Pessimist, Optimist, Activist
© Andy Singer. Used with permission

When things start to look like they are going down the toilet and there is no obvious way out, what do you do?

In the BBC TV series Twenty-Twelve, the fictional Head of Deliverance for the London 2012 olympics, Ian Fletcher, always finds something positive in the situation and a new angle from which to approach the issue. And then he wraps up the conversation with the line “So it’s all good then.” At that point, everyone gets back to work.

And so it is in the world of environmental affairs. No matter how bad things seem, there is no point giving up or assuming that nothing can be done. If someone is going to do that, they may as well stay home. Pessimism is as useful as the oil “dispersant” Corexit was to the Gulf of Mexico: better left in the bottle.

Similarly, simply passively hoping that environmental issues will work themselves out serves no useful purpose. Optimism in this context allows people to feel better enough to rationalize ignoring reality. That too is like Corexit: pour on some optimism and hope the mess goes away.

We can’t sit back and expect someone else to “fix” things any more than we can indulge ourselves in despair.

Face it, the future is unpredictable. There is no way to anticipate all of the changes that are coming. As poet Paul Valery is reported to have said, “The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be.”

But we can help to create the future, or at least try to. And in order to do that, we need to be realistic (i.e. knowledgeable, not rigidly ideological) about our situation. We also need a positive attitude (not the same as optimism) towards the work, and good critical thinking skills. We have to look at things afresh, figure out another way and then lean in and try something. There are still so many positive choices available to us.

To quote environmental thinker David Orr in his book Hope is an Imperative:

Hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up. In contrast to optimism or despair, hope requires that one actually do something to improve the world. Authentic hope comes with an imperative to act.

I guess that about sums it up.