Critical Literature on Media and Climate Change

‘Four cultures: new synergies for engaging society on climate change’
Authors: Matthew C Nisbet, Mark A Hixon, Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael Nelson
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, Ecological Society of America (8.6, 2010), pp. 329-221
https://www.jstor.org/stable/25741227

Points:

  • A shift in societal attitudes towards climate change requires a multidisciplinary approach and cannot be managed only by scientists and the scientific community
  • Current state of matters:
    • Scientists tend to bring more and more technical information in response to slow societal reaction to climate change news
    • Top-down approaches tend to ‘fuel polarisation and public disengagement’ (329)
  • Four cultures of environmental sciences, philosophy and religion, social sciences and the creative arts – all required to work in synergy to convince the public to care about climate change
  • Communication research demonstrates that much of the public have no ability or motivation to be informed about the details of climatology, choosing to rely on social identity, cultural traditions, personal experience, localised knowledge and/or popular media to comprehend climate issues
    • Thus the most effective method to rouse action is when it is framed in terms of community values or a subject they are familiar and concerned with
  • One of the proposals was that a digital news community be formed, with the suggestion that social media tools are used to match up members from different disciplines to discover complementary expertise, and to plan and coordinate a diversity of communication and public outreach initiatives

‘Climate Change as Meme’
Author: Samir Nazareth
Economic and Political Weekly (46.2, 2011), pp. 17-19, 21
https://www.jstor.org/stable/27918007

Points:

  • According to Richard Dawkins, memes are ‘cultural ideas which include symbols and practices that can be transmitted through various forms of communication’ (17)
  • Three main memes examined: renewable energy meme, energy efficient meme, and transformation of the pollution meme
  • Memes do not only propagate ideas but act as ways to comprehend complex phenomenon and encourage climate change action

‘Climate change oppression: media production as the practice of freedom’
Author: Grady Walker
Consilience (9, 2013), pp. 97-106
https://www.jstor.org/stable/26476128

Points:

  • Use of participatory media as an effective tool for climate change education
  • Media scholar Henry Jenkins: ‘We are moving away from a world in which some produce and many consume media toward one in which everyone has a more active stake in the culture that is produced’
  • Paper argues that adaptation is as necessary as mitigation to combat climate change, using participatory video distributed online on social media platforms as the main example

Imagining Action Against Climate Change: Speculative Futures and Ecofuturism

As taking action against climate change becomes a wider and more mainstream issue, I have noticed speculative literature and other fiction responding to the matter and trying to imagine what potential solutions can be offered.

One of the genres that has gained prominence in the last decade is eco-fiction, that is fiction that is ecologically orientated. It often deals with climate change, and also speaks towards matters about sustainability and renewable energies.

There has been some debate on the effectiveness and the effect of climate/eco fiction in general. Few academic studies have been conducted on this relatively new subgenre, and the ones that have found that eco fiction readers tend to be younger, more liberal, and already with an active stake in the fight against climate change. However, a key aspect is that ecofuturistic stories not only remind readers of the severity of climate change but also compels them to imagine futures with the environment as a chief consideration. This needs to be further translated into present action, so the effects of fiction on active engagement with climate change are still not well-documented.

Articles and books that we can draw from in the future:
– Charlie Jane Anders’ Why Science Fiction Authors Need to be Writing About Climate Change Right Now
– Guardian article on ‘cli-fi’ and its focus on the immediate thread rather than scientific discovery (link)
– Academic journal article on horror fiction requiring more eco-futuristic and ecofiction analysis: Brad Tabas’ Dark Places: Ecology, Place, and the Metaphysics of Horror Fiction
– Jim Dwyer’s Where the Wild Books Are: A Field Guide to Eco-Fiction (2010)

 

Looking at research questions

Lacombe Lucien by Louis Malle 1974

We have decided to work on representations of communities through paradox.


We are now looking at several subthemes related to this idea:

  • Responsibility

Communities are usually theoretically constructed on the concept of responsibility. In Lacombe Lucien however, responsibility is controversial. Lucien is not defined as an intelligent individual. It raises the question of whether intellectual capacities define or not your responsibility in a matter. Can someone who does not have the intellectual abilities to take a decision be considered as responsible for his/her actions?

  • Memory and post-memory

The myth of a unified France resisting the Nazi regime is completely questioned by the way in which the characters are depicted. Lucien, who is part of the German police, does not have any ideological convictions, neither do the other characters in the movie. Thus, there are two main paradoxes. First, Lucien’s commitment to the German police whereas he actually has no ideological opinion about his actions. Second, the Gaullist myth of a unified resistant France (very popular when the movie was released) which is completely questioned in the film by putting an emphasis on the banality of evil. Everyone could and is acting for the benefit of the enemy or at the very least not against him.

  • A disunified critical reception

In her essay Lacombe Lucien de Louis Malle. Histoire d’une polémique, ou polémique sur l’Histoire ?, Aurélie Fest-Guidon highlights to what extent the critical reception of the movie was completely heterogeneous even among already formed and strong political groups. In January 1974, Le Monde, for instance, gave a very good appraisal of the film and one month after highlighted the political controversy the film entailed. It is a very good example of a rare phenomenon: a single newspaper taking different standpoints about the same movie. Within political groups, people had completely different opinions about Lacombe Lucien apart from the extreme left which remained highly opposed to Louis Malle’s movie.