Environmental Communication for Sustainable Development:
Nwokezi J. Ikoro B.Sc. Mass Comm., RSUST, PHC, FFIF, MA, OU, Athens, USA, Communication and Development Specialist.
KEYWORDS: Environmental, Communication, Development Global and Local
In the 2007, the World Congress on Sustainable Development in a global conference, held in Rome, found that at the heart of communication for sustainable development is participation and ownership by communities and individual most affected by poverty and other development issues. Communication for sustainable development is about listening and talking and the importance of intercultural understanding in communication for sustainable development has been recognized in a number of international development workshops.
Conducting real emacipatory and participatory communication for sustainable development analysis of the needs of diverse local institutions and stakeholders, including low culture groups, values, and promoting concerted social action are prescriptive steps to successful environmental communication for sustainable development journalism. As part of rural development, this form of participatory communication for sustainable development has a crucial role to play in families units and communities in the Niger Delta developmental Bioregionalism.
In this respect, according to Mark Meisner, “environmental communication” refers to both the field of study and the activities being studied. Studying environmental communication means studying the communication and development processes involved in community environmental affaires such as special climate at domestic peripheral level. Environmental Communication is all about the many forms of communication (interpersonal, group, public, organization, mass, computer-mediated etc.) that intersect with the social debate about environmental issues and problems.
Environmental Communication has become one of the fastest-growing areas within socio-scientific technical mass communication and journalism field.
According to Braidotti, (Etal.1994 in Melkote, & Steeves, 2001 2ed) the core of Bioregionalism idea/movements is environment and communitarian sustainable development, terms of small-scale, self-sufficient, and a definition of regional boundaries by natural features. Communitarianism is a system of social organization based on small-self-governing communities with political ideological factors, emphasizing individual social responsibility to the community and social importance of the family units, (Soanes C. & Stevenson A., 2004 Eds. 11th Ed. Concise Oxford English Dictionary).
This modern approach to community and family unit sustainable development discourse is furthering complications, thereby making an assessment of how the entire world is coping with sustainable development challenges such as geopolitical and social changes that resulted in increasing schizophrenic attitudes. (That is environmental changes and problems characterized by contradictions or inconsistencies with elements of thoughts, impulses, and social behaviours leading to faulty perceptions, receptions and inappropriate actions and attitudes) that are becoming harder and harder to understand, (Professor Klaus Schwab in Iriekpen, Davidson 2008 in THISDAY Newspaper, January 20. P. 17).
This is one of the reasons why in the global environmental sustainability compliance and sustainable development discourse, experts are now encouraging new modalities for a thematic reporting and systematic high quality coverage of environmental sustainability and bioregional development issues. For example, in the United States of America, representing environmental degradations in the popular global media is like a tug of war between journalist/reporters, news directors and editors. Presently, according to the 2005 Environmental Sustainability Index Report, the United States ranks 45th out of 146 countries studied, and 17 in environmental compliance sustainability, at the global level with a score of 52.9, among the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development Countries OECD, (Environmental Sustainability Index Report, 2005, p. 5). Based on this statistical evidence, this discourse analysis article will vividly interpret and explain the significance of the “textual content” meanings of environmental sustainability represented in popular global media, with specific divergent overview on the practice of global to local environmental communication for sustainable journalism.
In these directions, the article examined current patterns in the representations of global environmental affairs, coverage, reportage and challenges associated to producing neutral environmental degradations news stories. The dataset collected for this article consists of 20 samples of popular global media, major national and international daily newspapers, which focused on international environmental sustainability indicators among other peer-reviewed documents. The analysis of the datasets revealed in a deep social ecological perspective that sustainability must emphasis on inclusivity, which should clearly imply development regeneration and health for ecosystems, people, and living things in general, (Allen, 2004 p. 19),
In recent times the practice of professional environmental sustainable journalism, requires media experts and practitioners who can portray environmental devastations news stories holistically. As (Agyeman, Et’al 2001) argued, it should include reducing economic harm in a way that enables environmental resources to regenerate 100%. Accordingly, this support Allen’s explanations. Allen stated that enhancing the representations of environmental degradation in compliance to sustainability in the popular global media, depends on balance coverage and reporting, corporate accountability and financial control, jointly by government and corporate interests to maximize profits.
Popular global media report on environmental sustainability in the last 8 years indicates that covering, presenting, representing and reporting environmental degradations news stories should be inclusive (Lewis, 2000). Representation in this perspective should be thought of as categorizing, (socio-scientific codification) and elaborating environmental degradations as improving the health of global and local communities ecosystem and reduction of pollutions leading to damage to human health or decline in the capacity of the environment to sustain natural systems.
This approach practically, requires divergent inclusive humanization of environmental degradations, in terms of social determinants for professional practicing of environmental communication for sustainable development journalism in the Niger Delta Region and in Nigeria as a whole. Evidently, in structure, (Echebebarra Ecabe, 1995) explained that, a social representation is always a representation of a specific object which is activated in a specific time, in a specific context, by a specific target and within a specific group.
Owing to the gap in the practice of environmental communication for sustainable development journalism and exclusive representations of environmental degradations news stories, the literature review examined the dominant themes of the coverage and reportages in the last 8 years. The methodology for this article was explained in view of the textual contents presented in other empirical documents sampled, before one obtained the results, which informed the discussion of the findings and conclusion of this article.
This article adopts a discourse analysis technique of “interpretative repertoire”, borrowed from (Antaki, E’tal 2003) who suggested a divergent and neutral approach to socio scientific thick interpretation of meanings in the use of discourse analysis as a qualitative discourse analysis research method. The technique ensures insightful interpretations and significance of expression of views, thoughts and opinions in talk and text in a given discourse analysis.
A ‘repertoire’ is a more or less coherent way of describing something. It can be a set of words and expressions, perhaps with associated images and so on. It is a very familiar way of talking about something tended for notice. For example, many cultures have an apparently familiar way of talking about the perceived world – it is external to the perceiver, ‘out there’ and factual. But sometimes you will see a person (or a newspaper or other ‘author’) sometimes use different descriptions to talk about that object.
Variability in interpretative repertoire makes for realization that deserves some attention, because it upholds familiarity with pluralistic environment and neutral socio political ideology. Interpretative repertoire is a useful method of discourse analysis that looks for real variability, how people’s descriptions change over time, see Antaki, Charles on-line lecture notes (available at HYPERLINK “http://www-staff.lboro.ac.uk/~ssca1/ttlecture10DA1.htm” http://www-staff.lboro.ac.uk/~ssca1/ttlecture10DA1.htm.)
In designing the “interpretative repertoire” for this article, more than 20 samples of major global newspapers stories and peer-reviewed documents were collected at random and selected, purposively and specifically in the context of “environmental sustainability”, “major global newspapers” and “discourse analysis as qualitative discourse method”. EBSCO database: Academic Search Premier, Lexis-Nexis (TM) Academic-Document and Google Scholar BETA were used to mine the datasets for this article. Emphases were place on credible evidence and quality of “sources” and “headline”. This was to ensure variability in choosing the newspaper stories in relation to environmental degradations.
In the context of this article, the table below contains the repertory for interpreting the representations of the “textual contents” as journalistic forms, in line with interpretative “repertoire” methodology and operational definitions of the key concepts:
NOSOURCE OF NEWS STORIES POPULAR GLOBAL MEDIA: MAJOR NEWSPASPERS HEADLINESPATTERNS AND TRENDS OF REPRESEN-TATIONSPERCENTAGE OF DATASET SAMPLED1. Esty, Daniel C. (2005). E.S.I. Report New York TimesNations Ranked as Protectors of the Environment.Global and National 5%2.Quatrano, Anne. (2005). U.S. FDA Atlanta Journal
ConstitutionWhere in the world? New labels reveal country of origin, other information for seafood-loving consumers.
National and Global 5%3.Merritt George. (2005). Dever Post Staff WriterDenver PostOn the Side Q&A.Local and National10%4.Smitherm, Laura. (2005) Sun Staff. Social Investment forum
Baltimore SunThe do-gooders of Wall Street; Growing area of investment sees its share of complications.
Global and National5%5.Blevins, Jason. (2204). Dever Staff WriterDenver PostInterview: A conversation with Jeff Berman, executive director of Colorado Wild.
National Interview with local environmental group activists 10%6.Shell New Zealand Sustainable Fund (2005).NewZealand HeraldShell helps firms reduce impact on environment.Global15%7.Takihana, Takuo. (2005). President and Executive EditorDaily Yomiuri (TokyoWorking to a sustainable society.
Global 10%8.Tituana, Auki. (2005). Guest Lecture and Indigenous Ecuadorian Governor Daily Yomiuri (Tokyo) AICHI EXPO 2005; Ecuador county showcases government of the peopleGlobal10%9.Stevenson, Pilippa (2005). New Zealand Farmer /Environmental ActivistNew Zealand HeraldPhilippa StevensonGlobal 15%10.Terry, Simon. (2004). Sustainable Council Director, AucklandNew Zealand HeraldLand pollution laws ‘need cleaning up’
National and Global15%11.Juniper, Tony. (2005). Director, Friends of the Earth Guardian (London) Looking into the future, what on Earth.National and Global10%12.Bourne, Tamar. Et’al (2005). Maser Degree student in Leadership for sustainable development and London- based NGO, Forum for the Future Independent (London) Postgraduate: degrees in sustainability: masters of a greener world; graduates who want to save the earth are studying courses to show.
National, Global and Academic.25%13.Dayton, Chuck. (2005). Environmentalist Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)Earth Day 2005; Gloom with glimmers of hope.National and Global5%14.Sir King, David. (2005). UK Government ScientistIndependent (London)Leading article: the environment: our political parties are ducking vital green issues.
National and Global25%15Lord Browne of Madingley, (2005) UK. Chief, British Petroleum Independent (London) Green image dented by rise in emissions.National and Global25%16.Morley, Elliot (2005) UK Government Environment MinisterIndependent (London)Heading in the right direction? The government’s sustainability policies are turning from red to. National and Global25%17.Esty, Daniel C. (2005). E.S.I. ReportGuardian (London)Britain gets bad mark in pollution ratings.Global and National10%18.Tom, M. K. (2005) Greenpeace International, China Regional Office Campaign Manager and environmentalist South China Morning PostGreens seek passionate media officer
Global, and National5%19.Topfer, Klaus. (2005) Executive Director United Nations Environmental Program, UNEPIndependent ( London)Landscape under attack: Changing space of Africa’s Lakes; New Satellite images release by the UN reveal the dramatic extent to
Global, Regional and National25%20Keane, Mark and Keane, Linda (2005).
Architecture Faculty, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and School of the Art Institute of ChicagoMilwaukee Journal Sentinel (Wisconsin)Spaces; Teach kids good design, and they’ll grow up to value itNational and Academic5% TOTAL: 20 100%
OPERATIONAL DEFINITION AND CONCEPTUAL CLARIFICATION
In terms of media, culture and society in social science academic tradition which does not define concepts in a general sense but in relation to specific case, meaning and application. Environmental degradations in the context of this article, implies depletion and damage to a natural resource system that affects present or future human needs negatively, including depletion of a renewable natural resource beyond its rate of 100% renewal. Rather than depletion of a finite resource and pollutions leading to damage to human health or decline in the capacity of the environment to sustain natural systems. Thus, directly inflict deadly harm on human life and that of other living creatures in land, air and water (Bucknall, et’al, 2000, p. 4).
Media is that by which or through which something is done”. That something in this case is the passing/disseminating of environmental degradations information and news stories – via conventional above-the-line modes like, TV, Radio, Press(daily newspapers, magazine), Cable and Internet broadcasting, etc (Emokpae, 2000).
Environmental sustainable journalism means striving to educate people with a series of objective dialogue (text) in a balanced way in order to achieve inclusive sustainable economic development and sound healthy productive environments.
Communication for development is a social process based on dialogue using a broad range of tools and methods. It is also about seeking change at different levels including listening, building trust, sharing knowledge and skills, building policies, debating and learning for sustained and meaningful change. It is not public relations or [community relations] or corporate communication, (The International Bank for Reconstruction / The World Bank 2007).
Generally, in this article sustainability and inclusivity are re-conceptualized as a construct for interpreting environmental degradation news stories. Significant literatures on the concept were examined. The concept focused on the problems associated with the production of environmental degradation news stories and bureaucratic bottlenecks. Most of the literatures, which are trendy, corroborate current popular global media, corporate interests and political ideologies of the advance global media in the Democratic Neo-Liberal Societies, such as USA, Great Britain, Australia and Japan.
Others global communications media in Canada, dealt specifically on the constraints of representing environmental degradation news stories in poplar global media at the national and international markets place of ideas. A modicum attention is devoted to local community groups and family units (landlords) who possess environmentalism and voices of environmental degradation news stories, as qualitative primary sources. On this trend, (Edwards, 1998 in Lewis, 2000) corroborates that Environmentalists – no matter how accurate or brilliant their facts and ideas, will certainly encounter institutionalized obstacles to the communication of messages which threatens state and business interests; and few issues are potentially costly as the environment.
In this regard, the dominate messages in the literatures as exemplified in the “interpretative repertoire” indicates that media coverage of environmental degradations shares much of the rivalry-orientations of other types of coverage in sustainable development and environmental affairs. Where, incognizant number of dissident environmentalists and community ecologists who are in favour of state interests, fare well as primary sources of environmental degradations news stories sources. This in reality sustains the status quo of dominant political ideologies in the advance global Democratic Neo-Liberal Societies. For example, “mainstream global media tend to report with a conservative, nationalistic slant, reflecting the consolidated corporate ownership of global media empires or mega conglomerates. (Clapp, 2004. p.19), in support this trend, stated that as long as people are getting their “news” from sources that don’t challenge the status quo, then popular challenges to existing policies will be minimized.
Some other media scholars and practitioners have been arguing that global media coverage at the international level and environmental reporting is scattered, sporadic, buried and completely overshadowed by obsessive stories. One of them, (Alexander, in 2002) observed that covering environmental problems in the United States, one of the Democratic Neo-Liberal Societies, has become a partisan ideological issue putting environmentalists and community ecologists, some journalist/reporters, editors and news directors to feel constrained to cover environmental degradations news stories in a fair, objective and balance manner, even if the weight of the socio-scientific evidence tilts heavily towards the environmentalist’s or ecologist’s side.
In respect of this view, (Kriz, 2002) made the point that at 45 years; the United States environmental news beat is still evolving because of incompetence and lack of understanding in socio-scientific changes, local community’s economics, contemporary environmental needs and pollutions of low-income neighborhoods at the periphery. This necessitated the formation of the Society of Environmental Journalist (SEJ) in the 1990s.
Owing to this development, some improvement has been recorded, for instance (Bruggers, 2002 p. 36) who have served on the SEJ Board in two terms as president, attested that the US environmental beat is now expending to a highly specialized beat in order to give environmental news stories prominence and moving the coverage beyond small party supporters in local diversities.
These complex changes have ushered in a new strategy for practicing environmental sustainable journalism and reporting sustainable development, as the effort to achieve both inclusive interpretations of climatic signs and meaning in terms of what causes and contributes to the social reconstruction of environmental degradation news stories. In this light, (Detjen, 2002) observed that there are many experiments on new organizations and institutions dealing with obsessions causing damage to environment and people’s lives in the global to local ecosystems.
Experiencing and learning the environmental beat is volatile and decisive test for some journalists/reporters who work for some popular global media organizations in the United States. (Shabecoff, 2002) who asked the questioned “why is environmental [communication] reporting so troublesome to management”? Found that promotion of high standard environmental [communication] reporting is gradually been recognized as a legitimate subject for popular global and local media to cover and represent.
In the same vain, (Rivard, 2002) a veteran journalist who attended the 1992 Earth Summit in Río, Brazil observed that, it has been fight with editors to meet environmental information needs in recent times. Therefore to create a global to local agreements, journalist/reporter, in developing countries such as Nigeria, must cover critical issues such as the Niger Delta Region, that is experiencing special climate changes such as complicated pollutions, deforestation, land degradation, etc by given it their own particular interpretations based on global environmental communication for sustainable development journalism education, principles, methodology and philosophy. For example, “it was in 1992, just after the Río Earth Summit, that Total Group, [Exploration and Production Nigeria TEPNG] decided to set up a foundation dedicated to the environment. The Total Foundation, initiatives was set up to learn how to better interact with the environment. “Protect and preserve”, “discuss and share”, “research and innovations” (Total – Corporate Web Site Press Release 2008).
At the turn of the 21st century, a new kind of environmental communication for sustainable development journalism emerged. However, opinions of global media experts and practitioners are still divided on what kind of journalism is needed to meet the global environmental challenges of this 21st century. It is my hope to pursue this area of philosophical inquiry, at my terminal doctorate degree, if TEPNG would be welling to sponsor me abroad with my family.
Environmental sustainable development journalism is open to many interpretations for popular global media practitioners and experts, because some current environmental degradation challenges in rural communities and families unit’s lands are not inclusively covered and reported in developing country such as Nigeria.
The patterns and trends in the representations of environmental degradations news stories were summarily, analyzed in reference to the variability of the two questions formulated for this article. The structure and organization of the textual contents presented in the major global newspapers is simple, although it may evoke imagery of curiosity and political psychological suspense in the reader. The clear inference from the data shows that, the environmental degradation news stories represented appears to be the best metaphor of the constructors of the news stories.
This social constructionist view on the “textual contents” presented in tabular form, show that the mentality of the journalists/reporters representing environmental degradation news stories in the popular global media appears to have started receiving average inclusivity in national and international coverage and reportages. This is skeptical, but a satisfactory propositional value was obtained in the course of exploring the following questions that where formulated for this article: What are the patterns in the reportage of environmental degradation news stories in the popular global media? And who are the sources of environmental degradations news stories, produced in the popular global media?
The periodization of the events as presented in the table shows that popular global media representations of environmental degradation news stories appeared to have been imported from abroad for reconstruction and representation in the popular global media in the Democratic Neo-Liberal Societies. These dominant trends could be said to have been influence by the World Summit for Sustainable Development, held in the city of Johannesburg in South African, from August 26 to September 4, 2002 and activities of other global environmental and development activists groups, government and socio-ecology scientists.
The popular global media in the advance Democratic Neo-Liberal Societies coverage and reportage of environmental degradation news stories is slightly close to average in contrast to global Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI), level in 2005. In order to brace-up with the current trends and patterns in the global coverage and reportage of broad indicators of environmental sustainability such as sophisticated pollution levels, special climatic changes, policy and vulnerability to environmental damages, holistic and inclusive practice of environmental sustainable journalism should be encouraged holistically, in the developing countries, such as Nigeria, specifically in the Niger Delta Region.
The news sources as indicated in column 2 in the table of “interpretative repertoire” points to the fact that, some of the major global newspapers sampled, are influencing environmental policy makers in the advance Democratic Neo-Liberal Societies to move from anti international environmental policy to proactive and robust solving of environmental problems through the promotion of responsible, reliable, compatible and desirable socio scientific and technological innovations and support international and national environmental sustainability efforts.
The sources of environmental news stories are experts and experienced members of National, Global, Regional, Continental and Local international organizations, renowned government officials, environmental activitists, community ecologists, socio scientists, nongovernmental organizations practitioners, including academicians, and excluding local environmental activists and community and family units groups at the domestic level. Therefore, this article found that at the national and international levels, popular global media representations of environmental degradations news stories is dependent on the environmental sustainability policies defined by the policy makers at the top, but have not trickled down to the bottom-periphery, where the impact of environmental degradations is heavily felt or have affected a critical number of the masses.
Although, it appears like the sources of environmental degradations news stories stated above, are working towards a world of Universal human dignity, rooted in the idea of new social environmentalisms movements. However, with infrequent but somewhat significant economic empowerments, these sources are making life better for everyone on Earth, especially for minority counties in the United States of America. This trend should be adopted to trickle down Nigeria. These sources should be adopted and deplored to assist the autochthonous groups at the periphery, such as the Niger Delta Region in solving the numerous deforestations and development problems.
Inductively, from the literature reviewed and the table showing the “interpretative repertoire”, one could argue that popular global media representations of environmental degradations news stories, poses a significant challenge to media workers all over the world. The patterns and trends in the production of environmental degradation news stories is a decisive ideological battle between journalists/reporters, news directors and editors.
For example popular global media coverage and reporting of environmental devastations news stories in the advance Democratic Neo-Liberal Societies is inline with the political environment and economy, that is to say, it appears nationalistically cosmopolitan, regional, somewhat international, local and metropolitan in nature and not pluralistic enough to accommodate local diversities environmental peculiarities.
The ideology, thought and mentality of environment beat reporters/journalists is either socially neutral or supportive in form and content of the sustainable development visions and agenda of the global communities, but in league with state and corporate media ownership, designed to strengthen and sustain the status quo. These rivalry orientations are detrimental to social construction of harm on the environment in low-income community neighborhoods and not compatible with environmental sustainability at the local level, because a great tension exists in identifying them in real life journalistic practices.
The popular global media should expand the coverage of environmental degradations news stories to provide more evidence and educate readers, viewers and listeners with a multi-social determinant dimensions of the ever changing environmental realities, as they try to represent them. Linking the concepts of environment, economic, development and social issues, in a manner that will be acceptable and fair to all, will jettison one-sided partisan ideological premises of environmental degradation coverage, production, representations and reporting in the popular global media. This would make room for inclusivity.
Based on this discussion one therefore, recommends that environmental communication for sustainable development journalism requires more and better journalistic training of those who do it. Environmental degradations news stories reporting must be sorted through the promises of neutral political ideologies and claims of archaeological and ecological evidence provenance and advocacy. Environmental news reporting requires sustainable coalition and collaborations from a significant number of ecological factors to enhance sustainable and inclusive coverage, reportages and fair representations in the popular global media to the local media. Journalists covering the environment beat must create professional strategies that would surmount the trouble where editors and news directors often struggle to see environmental degradations as ‘traditional news’, but consistently view reporters as treading on sensitive ground inside the newsroom. The stories in environment beat must not be purposively omitted; journalists/reporters should do a better job by telling the story about devastation of the environment objectively and inclusively. Otherwise, experts warn, it will be detrimental on them for failing to set the agenda for a rational discourse. Reporters/journalists must work hard with editors and news directors to get environmental degradation news stories represented in the popular global and local media by using fresh strategies on regular basis. Media representations of environmental degradations must be designed such that it does not threaten state and corporate interests, but to reinforce sustainable development strategies that sustain the status quo. Textual contents of news stories must be represented, with variability on sustainability and inclusivity as a construct for interpreting environmental communication for sustainable development journalism.
These recommendations were made in line with the findings and the result that media practitioners and experts (academicians, journalist/reporters, new directors and editors) are yet to recognize these themes as interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars now being used for global to local environmental communication for sustainable development. The patterns in the representations of environmental degradations, environmental sustainability and sustainable development news stories, in the popular global media are trendy.
Generally, current trends in the national and international news flow show that, popular global media practitioners are developing a new kind of environment reporting to blend objectivity with edutainment and news balancing called environmental sustainable journalism. In specific terms, the quantities of the news stories represented in the context of this article were found to have appeared mostly, in 2002. This article therefore concludes that the representation of environmental degradation news stories in the popular global media is trendy and somewhat socio scientifically satisfactory.
Nwokezi John Ikoro, a Ford Foundation International Fellow Alumna in Nigeria and a Lecturer, in the Department of Mass Communication, School of Science and Technology, Rivers State College of Arts and Science RVCAS, Rumuola, Port-Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. Date of Writing, October 1, 2008, Copy Right: Nwokezi John Ikoro Copyright © 2008 Johnnygold Global Resources JGGR, Egi, Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Council Area, ONELGA, Rivers State, Nigeria. All right Reserved. No part of this work covered by the copyright hereon may be reproduce or used in any form or by any means – graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including but not limited to photography, recording, scanning, tapping, Web distribution, information networks, or information storage and retrieval systems – without credit to the authors, and the sources. Rivers State College of Arts and Science RVCAS, Rumuola, Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, School of Science and Technology,