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Environmental Conflict and the Media


Libby Lester and Brett Hutchins

Has the hype associated with the «revolutionary» potential of the World Wide Web and digital media for environmental activism been muted by the past two decades of lived experience? What are the empirical realities of the prevailing media landscape?
Using a range of related disciplinary perspectives, the contributors to this book analyze and explain the complicated relationship between environmental conflict and the media. They shine light on why media are central to historical and contemporary conceptions of power and politics in the context of local, national and global issues and outline the emerging mixture of innovation and reliance on established strategies in environmental campaigns.
With cases drawn from different sections of the globe – Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Europe, Latin America, China, Japan, the Pacific Islands, Africa – the book demonstrates how conflicts emanate from and flow across multiple sites, regions and media platforms and examines the role of the media in helping to structure collective discussion, debate and decision-making.
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5 Photography, Technology, and Ecological Criticism: Beyond the Sublime Image of Disaster: Daniel Palmer


Its [man’s] self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order (Benjamin, 1973: 242)



Among the various ways in which knowledge about climate change is mediated, documentary photography has long been important as a means to visualize its environmental effects. Photographers operate as global witnesses to a complex problem that few people understand let alone experience directly, trading on photography’s reputation as a conveyor of visual truth. Supplementing and updating the well-established role occupied by photojournalists in the twentieth century, their work provides memory icons for an uncertain age. Indeed, it can reasonably be claimed that over the past few decades an increasing number of professional photographers have shifted from a broadly humanist to ecological framework. Although the idea of witnessing remains central to the rhetoric of the photography of climate change, the subject poses particular challenges—not least, the complexity of the scientific and political issues, and even more obviously, the relative invisibility of CO2 emissions and the effects of climate change itself. This chapter therefore explores the rhetoric of environmental images in order to consider some of the difficulties that accom ← 75 | 76 → pany dominant genres of such imagery, and argues that the effectiveness of photography as a mediating process deserves more scrutiny. I briefly explore some emerging photographic approaches that take a more overtly participatory and collaborative approach to image making. I argue that these approaches signal a shift...

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