Environmental Communication

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    • 00:07

      [Environmental Communication]

    • 00:11

      RONALD E. RICE: Hi, I'm Ronald E. Rice,I'm a professor here in the Department of Communicationat University of California, Santa Barbara. [ProfessorRonald E. Rice, Department Chair, Universityof California, Santa Barbara] I'm also the Arthur N. Rupechair in the Social Effects of Mass Communication,and I'm co-director of the Carsey-Wolf Center.For this tutorial, we're going to just mention brieflythe role of media in influencing public opinion,some different kinds of environmental communication,and some kind of challenges that await researchersand practitioners in this really interesting area.

    • 00:41

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: [How are environmental issues communicated?]There's a lot of different ways of lookingat environmental communication.But I guess the simplest thing ishow are issues and the realities of an environment communicatedthrough different media and also through interpersonal channels.And the environment can be somethingas local as trash in your neighborhoodor concerns about water quality from a floodto very, very large scale issues such as climate change,large scale pollution, how you redesigncars and other equipment to actually affectthe environment.

    • 01:19

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: So it's really communicating about the environment.But I also want to point out an interesting thingis that the media themselves are also environmental issues.There's a lot of concern about what we call e-waste.Everybody gets computers, mobile phones, devices, and thenthey upgrade two years later.Well, what happens to those things?And a lot of the material in those products are quite toxic.

    • 01:41

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: And what happens to them?So that's a really interesting issue itself,that is the environmental aspects of media.[Difficulties in communicating environmental issues]One of the interesting areas of environmental communicationis it's about a topic that affects us all,affects animals, plants, the future of the world.And yet people are quite uninformed about it.

    • 02:02

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: They actually have quite misleading understandingsand some of the issues are actuallyquite difficult to communicate.So for instance, many large environmental issuesare kind of abstract.They're at the world level.They're kind of in the future, although less and less so.It's hard to know what an individual can do.

    • 02:24

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: It's also highly politicized because itbrings to various issues of economics, and ideology,and benefit and cost.But it also brings to bear a lot of the areas of communicationfield as well as others economics, science, politics.So it's this really interesting area to look at.There's been a lot of coverage of the treatmentof environmental Issues in journalism.

    • 02:49

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: And so there's actually quite a lotof research about how news has coveredor not covered or misled or biased in coverage.And there are differences across countries as well.So for instance, I've done some content analysiscomparing UK newspapers to US newspapersand how they treat environmental issues.

    • 03:11

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: For many people, a lot of environmental issuesare only available to them through the media.So for instance, issues of ocean, here at UCSB,we're really interested in ocean sustainability.But a lot of people don't live close to the oceanor they think the ocean is only the beach.And so those people are only goingto find out about ocean issues through the media.So media is very, very influential.

    • 03:31

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: And how media frame of these topicsis also interesting to research.Like do you frame it as an environmental issue,as an economic issue, as a short term issue, as a local issue?Each of the ways that you frame these topicsaffects what kind of content gets presentedand how people respond to them.

    • 03:51

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: So there's news coverage and there'sa lot of issues in coverage of environmental issues,and a lot newspapers are having declining revenuesfor all sorts of reasons.They have fewer science journalists.Journalists are not particularly trained in that.There's all sorts of news issues,in terms of has to be dramatic, has to have images,has to fit into the column space.

    • 04:14

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: And these work against really explainingthese complex issues.[Methodological approaches]In the field of environmental communication,as with any aspect of communication,there's a wide range of methodological approachesthat can be applied.And these vary by the skills and expertise of the researcher,by the goals of the project, by the natureof the thing that you're studying, the kind of outputthat you want.

    • 04:43

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: So you could argue, for instance,that coverage of environmental issues in the newshas a particular kind of research.And the method there used is pretty muchobservation or recording, sometimes content analysisin the sense that people might categorize topics.But there's also rhetorical and cultural analysis.There are really interesting studies of, for instance,portrayals of nature on the cover of Life-- Life magazinethroughout its many years, or how certain activist groupsor corporations or government frame a certain issueand how they talk about it.

    • 05:17

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: So a person with rhetorical skills or semiotic expertisecould analyze those.There's also critical studies whichis what are the powerful forces or industrial forcesor the technical forces behind certain environmental issues.And the argument there is that unless you can reallyunderstand those deeper structural factors,you can't really understand what's going on.

    • 05:41

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: There are experiments.People, for instance, would show different kinds of messagesand see how people respond to them basedupon some theory about the effect of those messages.There's case studies.There are really interesting studiesthat have tracked a particular campaignor organization over time.There's a very classic study, for instance,of Greenpeace and its strategies for getting itself in the newsand uncovering controversial issues.

    • 06:07

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: And then, of course, there's sort of just objective data,looking at reports, for instance,the UN world reports on the progress of climate change.So there's a lot of different approachesthat you can use and apply.[In what ways can research on environmental communication beused?]So research on environmental communicationcan be used in a wide variety of waysand is used by a wide variety of stakeholders.

    • 06:32

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: It can be used to provide baselines or a benchmarkto compare change over time.So there have been different kindsof data that have been collected going back millions of yearsthrough ice samples or just trends in public opinion.So you have polls and surveys that are taken.And so you can see how people respondto the important political events or have different views.

    • 06:59

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: For instance, after major crises like Katrina,people were more aware of the effect of water and storms.And so you could serve and find out that people--and then maybe that's an opportunity for providingmore information to them.There's also lots of modeling that'sused to help people decide what to plan for.

    • 07:22

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: There's a huge amount of researchon the effect of rising sea level over timein the near term and over the next 100 years.And you can go online and find all sorts of siteswhere you can simulate.You can find your city and you can use a little leverand you can say how far ahead, and it'llgive you the bandwidth of the possible rise.And what you can see, there's certain placeswhere lots of people live now that they're notgoing to be living 50 years or 100 years certainly.

    • 07:47

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: And in fact, many of those placesare in developing countries.You can also use research to fine tune your message.You could see how people respond to it.So one of our studies, we looked at howimages in stories about climate change are categorized.And our next step would be to take those imagesand use them, maybe vary them, with the same storyand see whether people respond to them differently basedupon some theory about that.

    • 08:14

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: Certainly politicians and economists and othersuse surveys, but also, case studies to helpbase their arguments.And then local municipalities-- here in Santa Barbara,we have a lot of environmental agenciesand they're always trying to collect data.For instance, how people use recycling or what kids eatand what they throw away in their schools.

    • 08:35

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: So lots of different approaches, lots of different usesof research.[Formative evaluation example]One of the projects I've worked on, actuallywith a former student, is doing whatwe call formative evaluation for campuscampaigns about bottled water.Formative evaluation finds out whatpeople think about things, what kinds of channelsthey use, what their attitudes are,what their usage is and uses that to helpdesign a campaign that's specific to certain kindsof audiences.

    • 09:05

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: So bottled water is a rather interesting topicbecause you might think, well, that's a good.Everybody likes clean water, and it's convenient,and typically it tastes pretty good.But from an environmental point of view, it's a disaster.It's extremely expensive.Often the water's carted all around the world.An interesting study just recently saidthat most of the bottled water that's sold in the USactually comes from some of the worst drought placeshere in California, which makes no sense whatsoever.

    • 09:33

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: What happens to all that plastic?People don't necessary recycle them,and not recycling is used well.Not all bottled water is necessarily betterthan your municipal water.Most municipal water here in the USis actually very high quality.People don't like the taste perhaps and so peoplelike maybe prefer the taste.So we did a study on a campus whichwanted to start implementing organic restaurants,locally grown produce, try and reduce water, put more waterfountains.

    • 10:02

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: And so we found-- we had a model,and we found that certain factors helpedpredict whether people used water water more frequentlyor not.And so then you can decide, well,for the people who use bottled water the most frequently,they're people that you'd like to get it to reduce.So what are the characteristics of those people?And according to the different theory and the model,we had identified certain factorsthat were positively associated with using more bottled water.

    • 10:28

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: So you could design a message then,as part of your campaign or you get the channelsthat they watch and reach them more easily.And then you can evaluate that over timeto see whether bottled water sales-- of course,you can also have policy.I mean, the university could just ban bottled water.So there's different approaches to that.So that was one project that we did.

    • 10:49

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: So as formative evaluation, you evaluate your materialswhile you're forming the campaign.And so you use that at the beginningand also during the campaign.It's not the effects, it's not the outcomes.That would be summative evaluation.So here as the campus was preparingto have campaigns to support these efforts,they wanted to know how to best design their campaign.

    • 11:10

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: So the results of this particular studyhelped them say, well, what kind of messageswill be more effective, what kind of peopleshould we meet, how do we get to them, what kinds of thingsmight we not be able to overcome.So in this particular case, the outcomethen feeds into the design of an actual campaign.[Content analysis of environmental storiesin the media]In one study I've done with a great group of colleagues,we content analyzed the visual imagesthat appeared in news stories about climate changein a wide variety of newspapers.

    • 11:45

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: This comes from a very, very large scalestudy of 95,000 new stories, all themavailable on the online databases.And then through a variety of filters,we arrived at a random sample of those storiesand then we looked at the images.So that we have ended up with 200 storiesand there were 350 images in those.So then what we have to do is seehow those images are framing the issue of climate change.

    • 12:12

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: And so you can imagine images covering everythingfrom tables and figures and graphs,to photographs, to cartoons, to landscapes, to presentations,lots of really interesting images,all talking about different aspects of climate change.So we developed a coding scheme over timebased both upon literature and then alsothrough highly interactive process called emergent coding.

    • 12:36

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: And we developed a highly reliable content analysiscoding scheme for these images.We ended up with 118 different themes across these 350 images.And they're highly reliable, and that's allavailable on our website.Once we have those themes, so any particular imagecould be coded for one, two, or maybeeven five different themes.

    • 13:04

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: And that means across images, those imagesmay share more or less common themes.So images that have been coded as having pretty muchthe same themes, then those themes are basicallyclustered together into a larger frame, which we call an imageframe.And those larger frames can be usedthen to characterize how climate change ispresented in visual form as opposed to the textual form.

    • 13:31

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: So for instance, one of these major themes is politics.And so you have news stories and then you have imagesand the politics will be of a politician, or some kindof election speech, or maybe some kind of activism,or citizen activity, or about governmentpolicies, whether local, state, national, or international.

    • 13:53

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: So all the images that have codedfor any of those kinds of aspectswould constitute the politic frame.And so we can say that one of the main frames of imagesabout climate change is about the politics,and the governance, and legislation.[Agenda setting]One of the areas of research in media contentis called agenda setting.

    • 14:17

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: And the basic argument about agenda settingis that what people think about is heavily influencedby what's covered in the media.So for instance, if you're exposedto a lot of coverage of the election,then you're going to be thinking about the election.Now it's a separate issue as to what you think aboutand that has to do with partisan advertising and thingslike that.

    • 14:39

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: But the theory of agenda setting isthe media help establish what you think about,but it doesn't really tell you how to think about it.So that agenda changes, the public agenda changesover time.It changes by events that are happening,it changes by politics or cycles.For instance, the political cycle-- you know,the front runner in the horse race becomes the popular topic.

    • 15:06

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: Doesn't necessarily change voting a lot,but it makes everybody talk about it.So same thing with the environment,it's one of many issues that are generallyimportant in the public's eye.And that changes over time.Sometimes there's more coverage, sometimesthere's less coverage.Other issues come up, like Ebola, or large scale diseases,or wars, or the fiscal crisis.

    • 15:30

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: So those of course then push out other kinds of agenda topics.So one of the aspects of any kind of communication activity,certainly environment communication,is how do we get that topic higher up on the public agenda.And part of that is media advocacy.How do we get the media to actually pay attentionto our topic?How do we get them to pay attention to a certain kinddisease that's really affecting people,but doesn't get much funding?

    • 15:55

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: How do we get people to pay attentionto the immediate as well as short term and long termcosts of climate change, since it's affecting all of us?It's already creating havoc and destruction.Obviously, we want that to be covered more,so that people are more aware of it.So agenda setting is very useful communication theoryfor understanding that sort of change over timeand how things are covered.

    • 16:19

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: [Media Coverage]So how do people get their topics of interestcovered by the media?That is a very important question.And a lot of people spend a lot of time and moneytrying to do that and trying to study how to do that.So some examples are if it's local,then ratings really effect what's covered.

    • 16:45

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: If it's more national, it could be the news cycle.When do stories get released?If you don't want a story covered live, release itlate Friday because then you have the weekendand it's not really covered very much.If you really want it to be covered,you want to get it early in the news cycle.Get it out, get it covered by the blogs.Everybody picks that up.Get on new shows.If you want the media to start covering issues,then you engage in media advocacy.

    • 17:09

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: You try and have public affairs, you'retrying to have people pick up the storyas a real viable story on itself,rather than you providing a press releaseor you paying for an ad.It's more credible, it's more likely to have people read itif the newspaper or the medium decides to cover it itself.So there's a huge profession of people who do that.

    • 17:30

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: There's PR, there's advertisers, there's marketers,there's lobbyists.And they have different strategiesfor getting coverage.Like when you have big demonstrations and peoplesay, oh, let's go to Washington, that'sa way of getting media coverage about a topicthat people feel aren't really covered enough.Or legislative hearings, the party in powercan decide what topics get discussed, who to subpoena,and that's a way of getting a topic on the agenda.

    • 17:55

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: So one topic, for instance, was terrible, terrible caseof sexual abuse in the military of our women soldiers.And that is a very bad problem and the military sortof knew about it, but a lot of legislatorsdidn't know about it.So there was a really nice documentary on thatand was finally brought to some of the senators,and they finally forced that as a topicto be covered in the legislative discussion,including the military.

    • 18:22

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: And then that helped influence change in military policy.A lot of that's changing because of social media.They bypass all those traditional channels.People can post anything they want at any time.And if they're followed or if they become viral,then people around the world know about that immediately.There was just a story in the LA Timesjust the other day about how a lot of new films nowthat are shown in these festivals, people are tweeting,reviewers and others are tweeting about itright at that time.

    • 18:50

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: And so by the time the film's over the next day,there's already huge buzz about it.In the past, a film had to get out,had to wait for a movie reviewer.It might be on a newspaper or might be on a website.This radically changes the marketing strategiesof the people who produce the movies.And that could work for bad, too.

    • 19:10

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: I mean, this is an awful movie, don't anybody see it.Gets tweeted, it's hopeless.It's already lost before you even geta chance to get your movie out.This is true in every field.So in terms of environmental activities,people will-- there's this thing called citizen sciences, whereyou could get kids and local peopleto actually track what they see, for instance, in their pondsor to actually comment upon illness.

    • 19:35

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: So the CDC and other health agenciesare using mobile devices for peopleto report symptoms, for instance, related to Ebola,but anything.And so they can track that in real timeand they could see where the location is and theycan see the possible spread of diseases.With environmental issues, if you see spills,you can report them.Or if there's a congressional hearingor if there's a demonstration or if there's kind of a flash mob,you can put these on Facebook, put them on Twitter,put images up on Flickr, and have instantaneous responseby lots of people.

    • 20:11

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: So it's radically changing how content is beingconveyed through the media.[In conclusion]So environmental communication is a rapidly growing area.There are new journals, there's lots of books,there's associations, there's centers,there's a lot of research funding,there's a lot of public concern, there'sa lot of coverage in the media.

    • 20:31

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: So it's a great area to go into, a great area to study.It can take into account all sortsof knowledge from hardcore scienceto rhetorical analysis of messages to images.It's an area you should consider reading about, studying,supporting.It's challenging, it's interesting.

    • 20:52

      RONALD E. RICE [continued]: And it brings to bear a wide range of expertise and issues.[Key points Environmental Communication,Constraints of traditional media, Research approaches,Practical implications, Challenges and developmentswith new media]So in this is we gave an overviewof what environmental communication is,what some of the constraints are in coveringenvironmental communication through traditional media,some of the kind of research approaches you can take,some of the kind of practical implications,and also some of the challenges and developmentswith the new media.

Environmental Communication

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Professor Ronald Rice reviews how media influence public opinion and reviews methods of data collection.

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Environmental Communication

Professor Ronald Rice reviews how media influence public opinion and reviews methods of data collection.

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