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Environmental Communication Theory and Practice for Global Transformation: An Ecocultural Approach
chapterposted on 2022-01-01, 00:00 authored by Tema Milstein, Gabi MocattaGabi Mocatta
Environmental communication as a field of research as well as field of practice exists in a time of accelerating urgency. Anthropogenic environmental crisis is now the daily content and context of communication, making the field’s early self-definition as a “crisis discipline” (Cox, 2007) ever more apt. The ways we understand and practice communication also are deeply implicated in the unfolding of, and offering solutions to, human-generated climate catastrophe and other crises of environment and society. At this moment – as scientists warn of only 10 years left to avert worst effects of climate disruption and as a global pandemic caused by human unsustainable “natural resource” exploitation upends lives across the planet – we survey environmental communication as a field of inquiry and as a transformative force in humanity’s current unsustainable trajectory. In addition to outlining the field’s origins and theories and its broad, increasingly transdisciplinary conceptual landscape, we address communication and environment through an ecocultural lens, examining how ecological crisis is a manifestation of unsustainable dominant sociocultural orientations and, therefore, how crisis cannot be averted through technical or operational measures alone. We look at current imperatives and exigencies in communicating “the environment,” including the de-Westernising and globalizing of the field, a de-coupling from erroneous perceptions that equate environmentalism with elitism, and the deadly threat of misinformation. Finally, we turn to the future – or at least the decade of the 2020s, our final decade to avert ecological collapse – to offer environmental communication insights into problems and solutions. There has never been a more pressing need to analyse and act through communication, in all its forms, in the shaping of our interlinked environmental and social futures. The ways we succeed or fail in the next decade will have profound implications for how – or indeed whether – we accomplish the actions required of us to address the existential challenges dominant societies have created and that we all face.