Sharing is Caring

The Environmental Media Association (EMA) will host its first-ever annual EMA IMPACT Summit on March 23-24. This conference will feature prominent figures in the entertainment and entrepreneurial community coming together to find positive and innovative solutions to the world’s environmental issues.

The timing of this industry conference is impeccable. With the election of Donald Trump, we are seeing the emergence of alternative facts, a ban on the Environmental Protection’s Agency social media and website, and government-appointed officials who are not right for the position (cough cough Scott Pruitt). Hosting a conference dedicated to collaborating on solutions for our ecological crisis during a time of need helps the appearance and reliability of their brand.  It shows that the EMA is dedicated to improving the environment through innovative business solutions and media relations. In addition, their brand is taking action. They are contributing to positive discourse and opening up the floor for discussion in a large publicized manner.

In an article from Velvet Chainsaw, a business consulting site, Jeff Hurt describes the importance of industry conferences and learning from each other with the phrase, “We participate, therefore we are.” Essentially, this phrase sums up the idea of social learning and engaging with others to further understand a concept or issue. Applying this idea to the EMA’s conference is crucial. Environmental issues are not black and white. They are a huge gray area that is three-dimensional, conceptual, and involves different aspects of society. For example, the implementation of The Dakota Pipeline touches on cultural, economical, and environmental issues and is a problem that is going to take a variety of different approaches to solve. Bringing together a diverse group of influential people in society allows for different experiences and perspectives to contribute to a larger social issue.

“IMPACT is a natural next step to expand what has always been EMA’s sweet spot: bringing together the most innovative and creative minds across industries to collaborate, educate and drive solutions that can appeal to investors and environmentalists alike” says EMA president Debbie Levin. Finding solutions that appeal to everyone is the hardest part of solving the environmental crisis. Its a delicate balance, especially with businesses, to continue turning a profit, create products in a sustainable way, and support environmental causes.

Patagonia, a company that somehow manages to do all three, just released their 2016 Environmental + Social Initiatives booklet to change the idea that doing business and protecting the planet are diametrically opposed. They manage to use their entire company as a tool for environmental and social activism, and still turn a substantial profit. Finding solutions like this one comes from collaborating with like-minded companies with a similar goal. The sharing of ideas between individuals and organizations  is pertinent to creating a sustainable society.

 

 

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Talk Nerdy to Me

In Melissa Marshall’s TED Talk, “Talk Nerdy to Me,” she discusses the need for communication skills in the science community.

“We desperately need great communication from our scientists and engineers in order to change the world. Our scientists and engineers are the ones that are tackling our grandest challenges, from energy to environment to health care, among others, and if we don’t know about it and understand it, then the work isn’t done, and I believe it’s our responsibility as non-scientists to have these interactions,” she states during her presentation. The main issue with scientists attempting to communicate their research to a broader audience is that they are used to communicating with other scientists about their findings.  Rather than explaining the relevancy of a study and focusing on the big picture, scientists use jargon to try and explain the nuances of their research. This creates mistrust from the public toward science, as they not only don’t understand what the scientist is trying to explain, but the research can go against their intuition or prior beliefs.

In order to break down the barriers between media, the public and scientists, information needs to be made accessible, simple and relevant. Bill Nye (a.k.a. Bill Nye the Science Guy), is coming out with a new TV show that is doing just that. The well-known author, engineer, and T.V. show host is planning to launch a new show on Netflix with the intention of exposing scientific facts in a fun and comprehensible way. “In a statement, Netflix said, ‘Each episode will tackle a topic from a scientific point of view, dispelling myths, and refuting antiscientific claims that may be espoused by politicians, religious leaders or titans of industry.'”

The show will cover topics such as climate change, technology and alternative medicines with help from a panel of experts, celebrity guests and comedy bits. While the show has been in the works since August 2016, it couldn’t have been released at a better time. Donald Trump and his administration’s complete disregard for the environment allows the public to continue feeding into their prejudices and ignore the issues at hand. The idea of alternative facts is dangerous, especially at a time when they can be so quickly spread through the use of social media.   Nye’s new show is unique and hopefully will provide other scientists with inspiration to make their research relatable to the general public during a time of skepticism with the scientific community.

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Do It for the Insta

Beyonce announced Wednesday via Instagram that she’s pregnant with twins. “We are incredibly grateful that our family will be growing by two, and we thank you for your well wishes,” the Carters wrote. Her post also included a photo of Beyonce in a green veil kneeling in the surrounding flowers; she was clearly going for the Mother Nature look. As a very influential music artist, the fact that Beyonce is announcing such a monumental moment in her life over social media is very interesting. With performances coming at both weekends of Coachella and nine Grammy nominations, her pregnancy doesn’t just affect her personal life, it also plays a role in her career.

However, these days everything is on social media, so it is by no means surprising that she announced her pregnancy via Instagram rather than through a press release. Social media has the ability to reach out to larger audience and make the content entertaining. For example, Beyonce’s pregnancy. Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 7.25.46 PM.png

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Her followers really took her announcement and ran with it. Social media’s ability to reach a wide demographic and “its massive staying power is attributable to one key characteristic—the fact that social media keeps evolving.” Initially, social media was simply so people could stay in touch through the internet. However, brands caught on, which created new marketing tactics, and now its evolving into new communicative areas in a variety of different fields.

Social media has become a very necessary tool in environmental campaigns and the green movement in general. As Earthtalk puts it, “Perhaps the most immediate way social media helps the cause is via the mountain-top selfie.” People like to document the cool adventures they go on and share them with their friends and family. The University of Vermont actually uses these location tags as a way to track what trails and parks are getting the most use. It’s way to create real data to defend the use of public lands.

In addition, large environmental groups are able to use it as a tool to reach a wider audience as they can spread their messages or announcements in a concise and comprehensible way. They can also use gifs, videos, and images to give a sense of realness to their content. Individuals can use social media as a way to spread their own personal opinion and drum up support and empathy through the use of storytelling.

“Social media has become an important tool for providing a space and means for the public to participate in influencing or disallowing environmental decisions historically made by governments and corporations that affect us all,” says Public Lab co-founder Shannon Dosemagen. Essentially, its an easy way to give the public a voice and engage with something they care about with others who care about it too.

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While social media is a great tool for spreading rapid awareness, the longevity of its results are still unknown. This is known as “clicktivism,” the idea that people are advocating for their cause purely through social media sharing and without actually engaging. However, even clicktivism takes advantage of social media’s strong suits and allows environmental advocates to spread valuable messages. Clicktivism is a challenge to overcome as social media continues to evolve.

Tesla’s Battery Power-Up

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A democracy is based on information being available, shared and acted upon, yet there is a massive amount of misinformation about clean energy, and therefore a great need for independent voices and analysts to inform more people of the actual facts.” In an article from Clean Technica, Zachary Shahan discusses the importance of communicating about advancements in renewable energy technology-“communicating the renewable energy revolution.” As technology advances and alternative energy sources become more affordable, communicating about these changes are vital to creating a more energy-efficient society in the future.

Businesses are at the core of this energy industrial revolution. Not only do they have to minimize their negative impact, but they also need to maximize their positive impact.  In addition to communicating messages about sustainability within their company and to the public, business’ up-and-coming products need to be able to reduce their carbon footprint. This means creating products that are net energy positive and that are being produced in factories powered by a renewable energy source. And companies, like Tesla, are already showing society how quickly we can make renewable energy advancements.

This last week, Tesla, a company known for its innovative technology strategies, installed 396 stacks of Tesla batteries off the highway in Southern California.  Their purpose is to store energy from the grid during the day, and then feed it back into the system as needed, typically during the evenings when the electrical demand is high.

Tesla’s response to finding a solution for possible energy shortages indicates how quickly businesses are stepping up to the plate. Tesla has been able to transform itself  from “a maker of luxury electric cars into a multifaceted clean-energy company” in just a matter of weeks.

Tesla’s open innovation strategy  shows that corporations need to contribute to an industry-wide turnaround regarding sustainable business practices. Rather than cornering the market, Elon Musk, the face of Tesla, shared his patents and innovation as way to improve society as whole. Other companies, such as Toyota and Nike quickly followed suit, sharing patents for hydrogen fuel cells and Nike’s Material Sustainability Index. These business initiatives are important to reforming how society thinks about sustainable business practices. Communicating about innovative business solutions and progress is the only way to make open innovation a normal practice within all major companies and corporations. With Environmental Protection Agency on lockdown, businesses hold the key to fixing the environment.

Would you go out with REI?

Last year, REI launched their overwhelmingly successful Black Friday campaign. Rather than opening their stores on Black Friday and playing into the consumerism that the holiday has created, REI decided to close their stores and send their employees home with pay.  They promoted their store closure with #OptOutside. The idea behind this hashtag was to spend time with friends and family after Thanksgiving, rather than participating in the shopping madness. Since REI is a company specializing in outdoor gear, #OptOutside took them back to their roots of spending time outdoors. In an interview for AdWeek, Ben Steele, the company’s svp and CCO, described the inspiration behind the idea. He states, “We could never do it, but what if we close on Black Friday? Obviously at face value it seems crazy, but it was all about giving our people the day off and inviting others to join us. Part of this job is about storytelling, but when you can take an action and show people rather than just telling them, it can be really powerful.”

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150 additional retailers and the National Parks department decided to participate in the campaign as well. This increased participation helped promote their campaign and turned it into movement, which has surpassed the duration of the holiday season. REI and their followers still use #OptOutside on relevant social media posts.

As an environmental communicator, I love seeing a company stay true to their values, especially ones that include getting outside. REI does an incredible job with their marketing and social media presence. They are consistent with their message framing and this has allowed them to create a strong, cohesive organization. They continue to do this with the type of people they hire and how they present themselves to the public.

The reason for this campaign’s success was the idea that it was interactive and focused on the customer’s experience, rather than the success of the company. It told a story and allowed the customers to see that the values of the company matched up with their own. According to Ad Age, “Companies that truly “get” their customers share their customers’ fundamental values. When companies speak and act in a way that customers can relate to, people are more apt to want to open up and share more of themselves.” As a brand, REI did just that. They promoted their ideals of living life outside in a simple, easy, (and free) way that clearly resonated with the public.

 

 

 

 

Fake or Fact?

The concept of fake news emerged quickly and became incredibly prominent in the 2016 election. As stories about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump circulated in the news and over social media, Trump’s distaste for criticism from the media transformed into accusations of lies and “fake news.”

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While the concept of fabricating stories for entertainment is not anything new, the idea that these fabricated stories can be shared on social media blurs the line between whats true and false. According to an article from BBC,” research [suggests that] an increasing proportion of US adults are getting their news from social media, it’s likely that more and more of us are seeing – and believing – information that is not just inaccurate, but totally made up. ” The spread of falsified information that reinforces peoples’ prejudices allows people to believe whatever they want to believe without really knowing the facts. According to Brooke Binkowski who works at Snopes, a large fact checking website, “There’s a lot of confirmation bias. A lot of people want proof that their world view is the accurate and appropriate one.”

Trump’s social media ban on government agencies affiliated withe science and research is a prime example of this. @AltNatParkService , one of the social media accounts that emerged from this ban tweets, “Can’t wait for President Trump to call us FAKE NEWS. You can take our official twitter, but you’ll never take our free time!” (Reuters) Trump is known for being skeptical of climate change and in taking away these organization’s freedom of speech, he’s enabling other skeptics to believe what they want. Combining fake news and politics is especially frightening, as people’s political decisions can effect more than just their own personal perspectives.

Trending news stories, both fake and real, buy into what’s called the attention economy, whereby “if people pay attention to a certain topic, more information on that topic will be produced.”(PBS)  During the election, politics were all over social media, whether it was a news story or people’s opinion on an issue. News regarding the candidates every move was circulating in the press and over social media. The sheer number of fake news stories made it easier for people to find news about whatever their personal viewpoint or bias was. As many fake news stories are satirical or entertaining in their prose, people are more inclined to remember a fake news story over one thats telling the truth. In addition, they’re more likely to share these stories to their followers on social media because they provide entertainment, and supposedly true information.

The prominence of fake news stories just increases the need for the public to take it upon themselves to stay informed. Last week, the chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee and  Media Fairness Caucus, Rep. Lamar Smith stated, “Better to get your news directly from the President. In fact, it might be the only way to get the unvarnished truth.” He was criticizing the press for not covering Trump’s attributes. In his 1984-esque statement, Smith shows how important traditional media is going to be in the coming years. The media’s job is to report the truth, and the public needs to figure out how to sift through the onslaught of information provided by social media and find the real story.

Its Not Easy Being Green

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Welcome to Crater Lake National Park, the deepest lake in North America, spanning depths of 1,700 feet. This is one of Oregon’s most well-known landmarks and it has sat in the crater of Mount Mazama near for more than 7,000 years. Unlike many other lakes, Crater Lake is not fed by a natural aquifer, like a river or stream. The water has been present for thousands of years and is consistently refreshed by Oregon’s rainfall, creating the pristine water that resides in the crater. Unfortunately, this puts Crater Lake at a higher risk for pollution, as chemicals from the atmosphere are more likely to reach the water through rainfall. In addition, the increased tourism of the lake causes higher foot traffic in the surrounding areas of the park, creating litter and degradation of the flora and fauna. Logging companies are pushing to clear-cut old growth forests, endangering the wildlife that lives there.

As you’re reading this I’m sure you’re thinking, “Wow, this is unfortunate, but why should I care?”

And that is the purpose of this blog-to show you why you should care.

I created this blog with the intent of sharing current environmental issues going on in the world, new solutions and technologies that are being created, and to generally advocate for the preservation of the environment.

I’m an avid hiker, backpacker, and rock-climber, so the outdoors are a second home to me. As a public relations major strongly invested in the environment, I am able to intertwine my strategic communication skills and drive to protect the environment by articulating messages to the public that convey important ideas about conservation and preservation.

I believe that the communication about the world’s current environmental state is vital to sustaining our natural resources. Environmental awareness is an important tool in cultivating change, and environmental communication is the first step in doing that. Environmental communication acts as a way to educate the public of the problems with our environment and natural resources. If society as a whole can understand the economic, aesthetic and biological importance of preserving these natural resources, we can actually begin to implement change by putting to use alternate sources of energy, preserving national parks, and creating better policies and technologies to protect the environment.