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The Media And The Environment Essay

1789 words - 7 pages

The Media and the Environment

Ask any scientist about environmental problems, and you will get the same response: there is no question that the temperature of the earth is rising, that the number of places left in the world that are untouched by humans, if any still exist, is shrinking, that the human population is growing, that resources will eventually run out, that any number of other environmental problems are very real and need to be dealt with. Ask the average American, however, and you may get a different answer. Some people may say that loggers are bad people because they cut down trees, but if you ask a logger, you will discover that they only cut down as many trees as the public demands. As long as there is a market for tree products, they will continue logging. It seems that there is a gap between how much we know about environmental situations that could prove problematic and how much is actually being done to avoid such situations. “Given the evidence of our senses, the compilation of data, and scientific research, why are we still engaging in what appears to be destructive behavior?” (Sandman, 119). Society today is filled with messages: buy this toothbrush, it’ll make your teeth whiter. If you drove this car, you would have more freedom. If you wore this clothing, others would be inexplicably attracted to you. Such messages come at us throughout our lives, and (to varying degrees) are unconsciously internalized. From this, it may be learned that the media is a tool, a technology just like any other. It possesses, however, the unique quality of being able to influence human behavior in a more direct way than other technologies, such as a spoon or a car, have. This makes it very powerful. Currently, this tool is doing little to aid the environmental movement. Perhaps this is part of the reason why so many people are engaging in what Sandman calls “destructive behavior”.

It seems almost inevitable that language filters the truth. Babies are born into a world full of bright colors and shapes and movements. As they grow older, they are taught names to assign to things. Dogs are no longer large and hairy, composed of multiple colors of fur and slobbering tongues, woofing and bounding everywhere. They continue to be such things, but when you see a dog, you think “dog”, not all the other things. And if you then tell someone else that you saw a dog, even if you remember exactly what the dog looked like, they may picture it differently. Such is language. Burke uses this feature of language as justification for likening it to a “terministic screen”: “even if any given terminology is a reflection of reality, by its very nature as a terminology it must be a selection of reality; and to this extent it must function also as a deflection of reality” (Sandman, 121, Burke as quoted by the author). A deflection: things are left out. To call a dog a dog is to group it with other dogs, to focus on shared characteristics and exclude those that...

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