The study reported below examines how news coverage of climate change has an alarmist tone, arguing that this inhibits people from taking action. I wholeheartedly agree. One of my biggest complaints regarding media literacy practices is that they can be done with a fear-generating approach that leaves people disempowered because by the end of a workshop they will feel used and brainwashed. I’ve seen this happen many times and complained to one well-known media critic that his talks were making people feel helpless. He replied that it was a good thing to create an emotional response and it wasn’t his problem to help them find the solution. I believe this is the opposite approach that we should take with our critical thinking skills. Instead we should not only “deconstruct” but “reconstruct” as well. This is the difference between a design solution and one based simply on criticizing effects. I applaud Simon Retallack for taking the lead on this issue. You can hear an interview with him on Democracy Now!
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Simon Retallack, who is just in from Britain for the International Forum on Globalization conference. What is “climate porn”?
SIMON RETALLACK: Good question. It’s a phrase that authors of a report that we commissioned in London came up with to describe the way in which some journalists, some environmentalists and even some politicians use alarmist language to talk about climate change, in a way that you might see headlined, certainly in British newspapers, saying almost “the end is nigh,” using biblical terms to describe the impacts of climate change. It’s a phrase that is certainly not used to undermine the science. It certainly doesn’t mean to do that. What it seeks to do is try to encourage people to think about what sort of language will be necessary to motivate the public to take action.
If we talk about climate change in a way that makes it appear that there’s nothing we can do anymore about it, that it’s too late, that it’s happening, it’s going to be devastating on a global scale, without giving people the option and making the solutions clear to act, then I think we’re going to turn people off. So it’s part of some research and a long-running project that we’re engaged with to try to find ways of simulating climate-friendly behavior amongst the public.
‘Climate porn’ blamed for global warming ‘despair’ | Special Reports | Guardian Unlimited Politics:
Government and media organisations were today accused of undermining efforts to tackle global warming by using alarmist language that amounts to “climate porn”.
The “apocalyptic” way in which climate change is often portrayed in the press and on government websites succeeds only in “thrilling” people while undermining practical efforts to tackle the problem, according to Labour’s favourite thinktank, the Institute for Public Policy Research.
It analysed reports of climate change in 600 articles, 90 television adverts and news clips, as well as websites run by government and green groups.
A report on the project, published today, found that the issue was discussed in wildly divergent ways, and it argued that this meant the message to the public on climate change was “confusing, contradictory and chaotic”.
It says that the most prevalent tone for the discussion was “alarmist” and this was not confined to the tabloid press. It even cited a video on climate change produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Articles cited included one in Dazed and Confused, which said “We’re heading for dodo status”, and a piece in the Financial Times, which said “Think of being a canoe drifting downstream, then recognising too late that you are about to go over a waterfall”.
The report said that such “sensationalism… serves to create a sense of distance from the issue”.
It argued: “Alarmism might even become secretly thrilling – effectively a form of ‘climate porn’ rather than a constructive message. All of this serves to undermine the ability of this discourse to bring about action.”
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