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Environmental Activism and the Media

The Politics of Protest

Maxine Newlands

For more than 40 years politicians, activists, advocates, and individuals have been seeking ways to solve the problem of climate change. Governments and the United Nations have taken an economic path, while others seek solutions in the equality of climate justice. Taking the step from green consumer to the streets at climate summits and protest camps, as well as taking direct action recasts activists as everything from tree huggers, to domestic extremists, to ecoterrorists. Political policing and new legislation increasingly criminalizes environmental activism, supported by media reporting that recasts environmental activism as actions to be feared.

Why this has happened and how activists have learned to circumvent the media’s recasting is the story of Environmental Activisim and the Media: The Politics of Protest. Through media movements to persuade the moveable middle, high court challenges, and gatekeeping, activists have found ways to challenge media and political discourse.

This book identifies four key areas to tie together diverse sets of green governmentality, traditional media discourse, and activism: (1) environmental governance and green governmentality; (2) historical media discourse; (3) alternative communication infrastructures; and (4) local to the global. Using data from 50 interviews, archival research, and non-participatory observation from environmental activists from the UK, USA, and Australia, this text will show why protest is important in democratic political participation.

From activists to slacktivists, Environmental Activism and the Media: The Politics of Protest is for those with an interest in cultural, social, and political studies; democratic processes; climate and social justice; governmentality; and/or the study of environmental politics, human geography, communication, and sustainability.

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Chapter 5. “Don’t Glue Yourself to the Prime Minister!”—Millennial Media Movements and Alternative Activists’ Communication Strategies


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Don’t superglue yourself to the Prime Minister! She said. But, I came down to London, met the Plane Stupid people and we agree it is a good way to get the message out.

—Interview with Dan Glass (September 2011)

The new millennium brought with it new media and a plethora of social media platforms. New media platforms meant for ecoActivist new ways to reengage with a technologically driven media landscape with fewer gatekeepers. The internet, World Wide Web, and Smartphones were new technologies generating open reflective spaces. New spaces meant that activists, as early adopters, were able to mirror the horizontal consensus decision-making systems found in activists’ movements.

However, engaging with the traditional media meant running the risk of a return to the negative reporting of the global justice/ anti-capitalists protest (see Chapter Two) that led to some collectives withdrawing totally from working with traditional media. For a long time, many collectives choose the path of least resistance with a blanket ban on talking to journalists, or if a collective did issue a press release, the information was conveyed to the public incorrectly or in a negative frame. For example, Reclaim the Streets (1990) chose to impose a media blackout, as did Class War and Whitechapel ← 125 | 126 → Anarchists. Yet, media blackouts and alternative media outlets were no longer the best...

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