Call for Contributions – Environmental journalism in the Anthropocene era. Cultural representations of climate change in the 20th and 21st Century of the HALAC journal, Historia Ambiental Latinoamericana y Caribeña.
The main attribute that transforms environmental history into a multidisciplinary field capable of successfully integrating nature into human history is its variety of approaches. This attribute enables a re-reading of environmental imbalances in a historic light. Environmental research as an object of historical study is still in development, and the transformations produced over time through man’s interactions with nature determine, in part, the growing socio-environmental conflicts linked to the exploitation of the natural resources.
On the other hand, today the world faces major environmental problems as the result of social, demographic, political and economic factors. Climate change, lack of safe water, and air pollution are among major environmental problems. Due to the great technological progress and increased use of ecological resources, the human population is responsible for both present and future generations in terms of sustainable development. Environmental crises are certainly consequences of inadequate management of the environment. However, its deepest root could be seen in the anthropocentrism that in the long historical period fully objectified nature. Very correctly and at the beginning of the new millennium, Plumwood states that a “radical discontinuity” was made between the active subject, human being, and passive object, i.e. nature (Plumwood, 2002). This particularly applies to Western culture and its technological progress, which is moving towards growing nature destruction. The consequences are evident in the uneven resource exploitation in developed and underdeveloped countries. When taking into account the ecological footprint, there are many countries with biocapacity deficit like Singapore, Barbados, Israel, UAE etc. (Global Footprint Network, 2019) Ecological footprint reports indicate that the human population on Earth is living above the capacity of its planet. According to the WWF Living Planet Report of 2018, humanity’s ecological footprint has increased by about 190% over the past 50 years (WWF, 2018).
The current ecological situation at the global level shows the non-harmonized interaction between man and nature. One of the most important measures for establishing a more humane interaction with nature is the raising of environmental awareness. Sustainable development is not possible without the existence of environmental awareness among all subjects concerning nature-society-culture ties. And this can not be achieved without adequate environmental communication. Environmental awareness implies knowledge of the preservation of the natural environment, values that affirm the healthy natural environment and citizens’ right to a healthy life. However, the development of this kind of awareness depends on many factors and we should take into account the specificities of a particular social context and the achievements of environmental journalism. In the modern world, if we exclude environmental experts, citizens’ knowledge of climate change and the protection of the environment is most often based on personal experience and information provided by media. But in this area, we also can perceivemedia hegemony that is not recognized in the statement what to think about, but rather in articulation what not to think about (Katz, 1987). Therefore, it often happens that it is impossible to establish a public debate on issues that are not presented in the media because we do not have to think about them. The importance of some other issues (about which we have the illusion of choosing what is important and what is irrelevant) is emphasized permanently.
The media constitute an inexorable reference in establishing a public agenda in which citizens make political, economic and environmental decisions based on the information they receive. As a consequence, the media’s behavior is not just a minor detailing the creation of environmental awareness. The media have a great social responsibility in selecting which topics to cover and how to cover them. In this sense, the social perception of environmental problems comes into play, a perception that, for Garcia (2011), is comprised of three dimensions: concern, which is understood as the degree of consideration that society gives to environmental problems; willingness to act, which involves the determined attitudes that citizens take based upon the information they have about environmental issues; and meaning, which is the association of environmental protection with other values (p.276). These three dimensions must be taken into account when developing an analysis of environmental problems or conflicts, especially when studying how they have been addressed by the media. Consequently, these dimensions will be present in society to greater or lesser degrees, depending on the amount of information a given society has received, the issue’s media presence, the direct or indirect impact that it has on citizens’ daily lives, the level of uncertainty it brings, etc. (García, 2011). There is no doubt that environmental emergencies, disasters, problems and conflicts are newsworthy, and, therefore, have their place in the media. Consequently, media outlets have the responsibility to do reporting that is serious, ethical and scientific in order to transcend the sensation of alarm, and that is also in-depth in order to give account of the context and background of each particular case, without omitting the obligations of the social actors involved.
If we look at the global social context, environmental awareness can not be fully developed unless environmental topics are largely represented in media reporting and if environmental communication is not at an enviable level. It is the basis for forming the public and directing its attention to the most important environmental problems. Therefore, it is very important to investigate the complex and contemporary media conditions, whether there are similarities between countries and how much environmental communication promotes public debate about the consequences of climate change.
Taking this into account, our proposed for this special number are sought to contribute to the study of cultural representations of the environment. Our proposed considers media outlets to be bearers of symbolic power and sources of historical information about social and environmental dynamics, as well as the cultural repercussions that these dynamics have had in the recent past. Thus, our research proposal is based on a holistic and multidisciplinary approach that interconnects several disciplines, such as: environmental history and environmental communications.
Deadline: May 30, 2020. Check here the submission guidelines.
Ayelen Dichdji (CONICET/CEAR-UNQ, Argentina)
Nataša Simeunović Bajić (Faculty of Philosophy, University of Niš, Serbia)
Rosalind Donald (Columbia University, United States)
Márcia Franz Amaral (UFSM – Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, Brasil)