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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 6. Activism is More Than Hits and Likes: Social Media Strategies and the Moveable Middle


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Social Media Strategies and the Moveable Middle

In terms of media, it’s clear for movements in general, or all social movements. We need a massive increase in the quality and quantity of citizen media; we need to saturate the airwaves.

—Interview with activist Richard Hering (September, 2011)

Social movements, especially ecoActivists and Global Justice movements are often early adopters of new and social media platforms, and had some success by combining the media movement concept with social media and online presence (circa. 2005). Social media platforms exploded onto the media stage, and activists were some of the first to understand that these new platforms could enable them to circumnavigate gatekeeping practices of the traditional media. In just three years, one of the first social media sites My Space (2003), was soon followed by Facebook and Flickr a year later (2004) and by 2006 microblogging site twitter.

With new technologies (smartphones, laptops, and handheld computers) also changed how we consume traditional news media. With more choice of where and when to consumer and produce news, smartphones were providing instant news access, with the first iPhone (2007) and Android (2008) making news portable and accessible anywhere with a 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi signal. The technology combined with new platforms meant social movements ← 153 | 154 → and individual activists could instantly upload news footage of mobilizations. Social media and the internet...

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