Greenpeace released the above video for Earth day, which was the focus of an interesting discussion in my media ethics class. One student said it reminded him of an army recruitment ad, and it inspired him to join. I asked the class if they knew what Greenpeace does, and if not, did the video present any clear ideas. The discussion boiled down to the difference between what Greenpeace does versus traditional Washington-centric environmental organizations like the Sierra Club. In many ways Greenpeace is a postmodern organization with no clear figurehead (unlike civil rights movements of the past). Like modern corporations, Greenpeace is a large organization behind a brand, the brand being at the forefront of their activities. Drawing on tactics from the likes of the Yippies and Situationists, they stage media events in order to change the meaning of ideas that drive civilization, such as “progress.” Given our media environment, these are necessary tactics. Of course, they are just one part of a greater mosaic. I’m increasingly convinced that local organizing is the real key to fixing our ecological problems. Nonetheless, the battle for how people contextualize images, for better or for worse, remains a primary concern for anyone working for environmental change.
PS You may notice that in the header I used “Gaia” instead of Earth. I do this because Gaia invokes for me a personal and visceral connection to our planet as a living organism. For me “Earth” is too impersonal and scientific; it doesn’t convey a deeper connection necessary to promote a shift in human awareness to the extended body that comprises all our lives.
For more, see one of many versions of Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot video below: