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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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16 “That Sinking Feeling”: Climate Change, Journalism and Small Island States: Chris Nash and Wendy Bacon


There is a poignant moment in Jared Diamond’s widely read book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive when he ponders the final years of the last surviving original inhabitants of Henderson Island in remote Polynesia—alone, isolated and doomed (Diamond, 2005: 133–135). His argument is that the decline and extinction of human habitation on Henderson Island, and other southerly Pacific Islands including Easter Island, were caused by the failure of the inhabitants to understand the consequences for the local ecology of their cultivation and harvesting practices—especially of trees for canoe construction—which fatally compromised their inter-island transport, continuing productivity and therefore survival.

He makes congruent cases about a broad range of other historical and contemporary ecological crisis situations, canvassing the scholarly literature in each instance, and projects the likely consequences of ecological mismanagement into the contemporary case studies. The time scale is calibrated over centuries, and Diamond reminds his readers that the ill-fated Norse occupation of Greenland survived longer than English-speaking society has existed in North America (Diamond, 2005: 276).

Diamond warns that some contemporary ecological problems are global in potential impact, although always with a local specificity (Diamond, 2005: 486ff). Notable among these is anthropogenic climate change caused by increased emis ← 245 | 246 → sions of greenhouse gases, whose effects will include rising sea levels (RSL) that will impact severely on low-lying littoral areas and islands (Diamond, 2005: 493). Since the late 1980s, the threat posed to low-lying islands by RSL and...

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