Environment and Society: a complex relationship worth studying


Environment and all related issues raise a lot of interest within the science communication research community. The large amount of papers on this topic published in the last few years by JCOM proves that there is a great need for better understanding of how publics interact with such a complex topic.

Research published so far has focused on several channels and contexts through which environmental communication takes place. It is the case for example of the paper Understanding drivers, barriers and information sources for public participation in marine citizen science, by Vicki Martin, Les Christidis, David Lloyd and Gretta Pecl, analyzing outcomes of 110 interviews with marine users “to elicit their salient beliefs about recording marine species in a citizen science project”. The perfect reading to join the wide international community who celebrates today, 8 June 2017, the World Oceans Day.

Internet is by far the most challenging medium, although the most observed. In their paper titled Discussing climate change online. Topics and perceptions in online climate change communication in different online public arenas, researchers Ines Lörcher and Monika Taddicken have analyzed how “online public arenas” encourage a larger diversity of topics and interpretations. Alicia De Lara, Jose A. García-Avilés and Gema Revuelta, from Spanish universities University Miguel Hernández and Pompeu Fabra University, in Online video on climate change: a comparison between television and web formats expose their analysis of a sample of 300 videos, showing how their capacity to generate visits “is greater when it has been designed to be broadcast on the Internet than when produced for television.” Social media also play an important role in environmental communication. In their paper Tweeting disaster: an analysis of online discourse about nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, an international group of researchers composed by Nan Li, Heather Akin, Leona Yi-Fan Su, Dominique Brossard, Michael Xenos and Dietram Scheufele, presents the analysis of a census of English-language tweets about nuclear power before, during, and after the Fukushima nuclear accident, showing how “there is a group of concerned citizens and stakeholders who are using online tools like Twitter to communicate about global and local environmental and health risks related to nuclear power.”

Advertising and other forms of communication also play an important role in linking environmental issues to society. Marcio Silva and Ligia Simonian explore How advertising and sustainability dialog in Pan-Amazonia: the perspective of advertising professionals in Peru and Brazil, “by evaluating the perceptions of employees of advertising agencies in the Pan-Amazon region using pre-defined indicators.” Erin Roger and Sarah Klistorner have analyzed how BioBlitzes help science communicators engage local communities in environmental research: their observation of citizen science BioBlitzes suggests that “participants valued learning about biodiversity on the day and importantly, all participants (scientists and citizen scientists) rated interacting and learning from the experience as one of the main benefits.” Finally, the paper Using communication research to gather stakeholder preferences to improve groundwater management models: a South Texas case study by Ric Jensen and Venkatesh Uddameri explores possible approaches to “develop groundwater models that incorporate stakeholder inputs, and to present and discuss a method in which communication research can be used to obtain stakeholder preferences input into modeling efforts.”

Traditional media have also been the object of researchers’ attention. JCOM has published at least three papers focusing on environmental communication in magazines and newspapers: Metaphors in climate discourse: an analysis of Swedish farm magazines, by Therese Asplund; The uncertainties of climate change in Spanish daily newspapers: content analysis of press coverage from 2000 to 2010, by Emilia Lopera and Carolina Moreno; and From journal to headline: the accuracy of climate science news in Danish high quality newspapers, by Gunver Lystbæk Vestergård.