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The world of communication and the environment PDF Print E-mail
Life – Consciousness

tv noise"The good opinion of mankind, like the lever of Archimedes, with the given fulcrum, moves the world." Thomas Jefferson
The nodal point, the field of networking of all the cultural dimensions in relation to the environment, lies in communication and education. By means of education, coming generations who will handle new issues and challenges are shaped.

The generations to come and children can, from their own starting-point, change the behaviour of the dominant generation in transition, that is, of the generation of the parents. A young child can convey his own messages and influences to the family when he has been sensitised by means of education and can shape a new way of behaving and of life.

Our life is also depends upon communication and its world, as it is this which co-ordinates societies at a mass level. Communication passes on messages and, moreover, it does this by the techniques of marketing and the dynamic of journalism, thus shaping models for behaviour and a way of thinking.

As we have said before, the world of the screen can become, among other things, a new world of alienation of man from nature, from the immediacy of contact, a world which can be a ghetto. But, on the other hand, it can at the same time be a world of sensitisation to the environment, of networking for the environment and of co-ordination of actions in order to save it. The world of communication is beginning to diffuse, in the context of social messages, the messages of non-governmental organisations about the environment. It diffuses messages of the state, European directives, summonses of local government, and news - international or local - relating to the environment. The environment, in any event, is among the subjects dealt with by the mass media. It is within this framework that scientific discoveries and applications of technology are registered, with specific impacts, in the consciousness of the public as regards the environment and the relation of civilisation with it.

The world of communication is also the world of the management of the political cost of our adjustment to the environment. The economic cost of the transition from the model of 'economic development' to the model of 'sustainable development' and of the protection of the environment calls for a special approach on the part of those involved in communication and their media. Failures of communication have major impacts on matters of environmental management.

Our models of behaviour are shaped, to a large degree, by the world of communication, perhaps more than they are by the educational process itself, since this is, to some extent, ineffective, and is dominated by its externalities. We are constantly exposed to the world of communication and to the mass media, and thus these function as dominant factors.

If the mass media are interested chiefly or only in ratings, this means that they are not undertaking any role in the management of the political cost, but, on the contrary, they are swelling it. It is obvious that for the burden of environmental adaptation of the economy and of society to be shouldered, the participation of everyone is needed.

The economic and political cost must be shared if we are to arrive at an 'economic contract for the environment'.

But, on the other hand, the mass media frequently abandon themselves to prejudices and superstitions which describe sensitive ecological behaviours as quaint or dangerous. They spread new myths which talk about the releasing of wolves or snakes in nature. They show a picture of nature as 'begging' from the city - as if it does not have its own field of existence - suggesting that man is the absolute ruler. Thus, if there is something coming from nature which sets limits on man, this must be eliminated.

Within this framework, they adopt an erroneous mentality, as if before our own existence there were not tens of thousands of forms of life in the Earth's biosphere – as if the whole chain of biodiversity were not necessary for the continuation of our own life.

The faulty education which is to be found in the world of the mass media as to the manner and the content of the presentation of environmental issues plays a catalytic role, because, unfortunately, it often extends the negative prejudices and covers all the issues with an irrational approach.

The constructive contribution of the mass media
The world of communication is a dominant factor in the relation between civilisation and the environment and often functions at the opposite extreme from the intelligentsia. If the realm of communication were governed by synthesis, it could have this encyclopaedic dynamic. Nevertheless, the things which happen in this world are not only negative: they are also positive, if not to a sufficiently satisfactory degree. Audio-visual productions of documentaries and broadcasts on matters involving the environment, of discussions on the subject, and conferences reveal a very fruitful field for the cross-checking of views, for an approach based on synthesis, and, eventually, for the educating of the public.

As Al Gore said in his Assault on Reason, "one of the most obvious and most dangerous concentrations of mass power is that of the mass media, where large groups of companies have used their financial status to acquire political power, and, thus, even more money. It is, therefore, difficult to avoid the collapse of the rule of reason when large business consortiums choose the information and ideas with which citizens / TV viewers will be bombarded."

Often, the local community and civil society are at the centre of developments in communication on environmental matters. The commitment to publicity which many actions carried out in the context of European or national programmes stems from the recognition of this tremendous importance of communication for environmental issues. What is being acknowledged, that is to say, is the fact that publicity, the conveying of messages to the general public, and not only the scientific monitoring and recording of data on the environment, addressed to a specialist public, plays a definitive role in the evolution of environmental issues.

The dynamic and importance of the world of communication as a world of cultural mediation on the environment is increasingly being realised. The techniques of marketing have incorporated and promote sensitivity to the environment. In many advertisements there is an ancillary constituent which raises environmental awareness; on many products there is environmental information; in the market itself, environmental information on its products is compulsory, and the issue of the environment is on the agenda of the mass media. All these things constitute hopes and creative horizons for the participation of the world of communication in laying the foundations for an ecological civilisation. Here we must add Corporate Social Responsibility for the environment, in spite of the ambiguities involved. There are economic interests already taking shape in the world of communication which converge upon the protection of the environment.

The world of communication is also a world in which the tourist markets are severely determined. Tourist destinations are increasingly required to be linked with some kind of quality of the environment - and here the communication world provides a compass.

Thus we see the world of communication - as it mediates in the economic market - playing an important role not only in tourism, but also in the environmental profile of industrial enterprises or as regards the products of the primary sector. What we see being expressed is the convergence of environmental necessity which is gradually holding together and reconstituting the market through communication.

Another special dimension of involvement of the world of communication with the environment is located in the management of the man-made environment, in the management of the cultural heritage. Here the mass media have a major and decisive role.The sensitivity which is shown towards concerns of cultural heritage and the management of the man-made environment is note worthy. Indirectly, this also has a positive effect on the management of the natural environment. So it could be said that the world of communication is one of the basic pillars for the transformation of today's reality and for the development of another quality of relations between modern civilisation and nature.

Of course, as in any branch of dynamic activity, here too there are risks and perils. We must not forget how closely related the world of communication and the haste which possesses updating and the content of the programmes of the media are with futuristic violence and aesthetics. Here we can perceive an interrelated dynamic of interdependence, and for that reason the problems need to be approached from the point of view of synthesis.

The issues of communication in relation to environmental sensitisation and briefing cannot be approached in isolation as problems of the world of communication, but only in connection with the whole of civilisation.

Ioannis Zisis, Writer

Photo from wikimedia

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