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Environmental Conflict and the Media

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Edited By 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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18 Media, Civil Society and the Rise of a Green Public Sphere in China: Guobin Yang and Craig Calhoun

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According to media reports, in April 2004 China’s State Council halted the hydropower project planned for the Nu River in Yunnan Province. The decision came after months of intense public debates. China’s premier, Wen Jiabao, reportedly cited “a high level of social concern” as an important reason for suspending the dam-building project (Ming Pao Daily, 2 April 2004). Such a reversal after public criticism was hardly typical of the Chinese government—nor was the nature of the public criticism typical. In the first place, the public debate addressed policy rather than a more common complaint such as the exposure of corruption or the suggestion that local officials deviated from the goals of the central Party and government. Second, a broad range of participants was involved in public discourse. This differentiated it from the “reportage” literature through which criticism flourished in the 1980s, for example, which typically required a strong individual personality, such as Liu Binyan, willing to focus on broader concerns in his or her writing.

How did the public debates about the Nu River happen? Who was involved? What media were used? We argue that the articulation of “a high level of social concern” depended on a public sphere of environmental discourse in China—a green public sphere. Communication and debates in the public sphere channeled citizen opinions to influence government policies. ← 273 | 274 →

A green public sphere fosters political debates and pluralistic views about environmental issues, and for this reason it is intrinsically valuable...

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