Communication and environmentalism


  • Who frames the debates?
  • Who dominates the media?
  • Naomi Klein argues that logic of capitalism makes it a system incompatible with effective environmental action.
    • Is a green and capitalist path possible?

Social Media Campaigns

  • Best Ten according to the Guardian, feb 2014


Psychology of climate change communication (see podcast reference below)

Pyschologist Debika Shome suggests: (min 4:22 – 10:31 in podcast)

  • Climate change seems geographically and temporally remote – we tend not to react to threats unless they are perceived to be closer, more immediately dangerous.
    • experiential v analytical reasoning
  • Confirmation Bias: we tend to accept/seek information consistent with that we already believe.
  • Mental Model/Frame
    • = our thought processes of how things work (made up of facts, intuitions, experiences )
    • we all carry many about (e.g. hot faucet water?, have to walk on the right) they can change BUT
    • we fit new information into our existing frameworks
    • media-makers have to understand the frame of the audience if they want to be understood
    • media-makers have to choose frame that resonates with the audience – not to manipulate but to be understood

Tima Banzel from the Ivey School of Business at Western University, London Ontario suggests we should focus on corporations. She says

  • corporations have an influence on environmental issues in 2 ways
    • they fuel our desire for stuff
    • they create emissions producing stuff
    • but have little incentive to change/retool for green products
  • climate change conversations tend to focus on government or individuals, but she would thinks we need to focus on corporations as potential leaders.
  • but there are some problems:
    • corporate short termism, less profit now better than bigger profit later
    • managers don’t like to shor a short term loss ever
    • don’t like uncertainty – the more uncertainty, the more the tendency towards short termism
  • her solution
    • handful of truly motivated people to make business miserable
    • push corporations to act
    • push governments to enact policy that lessons uncertainty

Matthew McGregor – director of digital communications at precision strategies and worked on digital team/rapid response for the Obama campaign min 18:55 – 30:48  in podcast

What is his advice for making media, especially short form media for digital campaigns?

  • Start from where things really are: Paris Climate Agreement  in Dec 2015 was a success, environmental campaigners have done a good job.
  • There’s no big moment – instead need to focus on lots of little things, embedding awareness of climate into day to day – get to people bit by bit by bit
  • Not enough to be right, in the scientific sense, have to think what actually connects, persuades, moves people
    • Factual case is won, focus on the practical/moral case
  • People are not interested in your topic, they are looking to be entertained, moved or to learn something in the short, in-between moments of their life
    • Less spin is better. Don’t shove things down people’s throats.
    • People are more receptive to good outcomes – focus on a vision of a better tomorrow rather than drama about how bad things are – but do not mislead
    •  He suggests a ratio of about 50/1 focus on vision/attack the polluters/deniers
  • PRIORITY is knowing your audience and using emotional frames that connect to their everyday experiences.




Communicating Climate Change: a psychoanalysis – Science Weekly Podcast , Jan 19, 2017 The Guardian