COMM 4P18 Conclusions

I really enjoyed and learned from this course overall. The assignments for the course are great and I loved that we had the freedom to do largely what we wanted with course material. I found that the discussions were engaging and forced students to apply course material. That said, it was evident that the readings were not always done. Of course, this will be the case in every course especially at peak times when many assignments tend to be due. The blogs did, in some ways, encourage the completion of course readings, however, it is easy to forget about the blog because it is out of sight and therefore out of mind. I think that it would be useful to have a requirement for students to comment on other blogs so that they are doing the readings and engaging with them in a different way. It also might be beneficial to require a specific number of blog posts on specific readings or something. Perhaps, even take 5 minutes at the end of class to have everyone submit a short paragraph on their opinion of the readings for the week. That said, it was a great course and the way it was organized really suited the content and the style of the course. It was interesting and challenging. As was evident from many of the presentations, students took a lot away from this course.

Thank you very much for a great semester!

Presentations: Round Two

I know that the blogs were due prior to class, however, I feel that it is necessary to reflect on the final presentations and the class in its entirety. You can choose not to include these as part of my final mark, but I wanted to discuss these topics any ways. Hopefully it helps provide feedback overall for the course.

Again, todays presentations were interesting and engaging. I was actually very impressed at the caliber of the presentations. They were all very creative and thought-provoking. I liked that the topic of the presentations was up to interpretation and desire. Students could talk about any part of the course they desired to. This made the presentations very unique and kept it interesting.

Amanda’s presentation offered a unique perspective of what the term ‘environment’ entails. Her presentation unintentionally complemented Eva’s presentation in that both examined built spaces as part of the ‘environment’ and environmental communication. Together, these presentations challenged preconceived notions about the environment. Eva made an interesting point about how media and environmental communication shape our perspective of the environment, specifically as a desirable place or an undesirable place. Amanda suggested that built spaces are often more desirable than spaces where the natural environment is included in a way that compartmentalizes it.

Maira’s analysis of Tropicana and greenwashing using buzzwords ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ challenged me specifically. I purchase as much of my food as possible at the market and largely avoid grocery stores except for the purchase of baking products. I do not tend to be lured in to the fads of ‘natural’ or ‘organic’. I try to avoid unnatural chemicals, antibiotics, etc. in foods by making the majority of my purchases at the farmers market. Still, it is important to know these distinctions. In the winter, when many foods are out of season, even the farmers at the farmers market will sell foreign products.

Brittany’s presentation challenged listeners to become active consumers as well. This tended to be a trend across presentations and throughout course discussions. Her comparison of The Body Shop and Bath and Body Works was intriguing and her proposal was very creative and plausible. I really liked the campaign proposals because it showed how involved people became with course content, particularly environmental communication.

Overall, the presentations were great. They were interesting to listen to and they engaged course content in a critical and constructive way.

Presentations: Round One

I found the first round of presentations very engaging and interesting. It was interesting to see how involved some people became with course material. For instance, Sara mentioned that she has become more critical of the ways items are packaged and is appalled by excessive plastic production. Rachel mentioned that this course has led her to think about unnatural  spaces as the environment rather than associating the term environment exclusively with what is natural. Brianne discussed her own interactions with the environment and how she has become more critical of society’s distancing from what is natural. These ideas have been themes seen throughout the course. However, it is interesting to see how course material has affected daily life outside of class time.

I really enjoyed Daniel’s presentation where he unpacked the myths of greenwashing. It was very intriguing to see myths that we interact with on a daily basis as consumers discussed in this way, as fabrications of marketers in order to sell a product. I felt that his presentation shed new light on our class discussion of greenwashing. It seemed to me that in the class discussion, we did not touch on the fact that greenwashing can be deceptive and is in many ways a strategic manipulation of consumers. I liked the point that was brought up following Daniel’s presentation that the real solution is to stop consuming, not to buy ‘green’ because what is green still affects the environment and often it is not truly environmentally friendly (as Daniel argued). Instead, consumer must curtail consumption habits.

Another presentation that I took a great deal away from was that of Sara. She engaged with Instagram as a website that encourages the manipulation of the natural environment and leads people to participate with the natural environment, not for their own pleasure, but instead to be able to show others over social networking what they have done and where they have gone. People, according to Sara, find pleasure in sharing, not in experiencing.

A third presentation that I will discuss is that of Charlotte. Charlotte engaged with Brock University as an institution that is committed to preserving the natural environment and being at the forefront of innovative environmental techniques. Charlotte created an excellent campaign for Brock in order to inform students and faculty of the green initiatives on campus. It was evident that Charlotte felt very strongly about Brock’s green initiatives and was very passionate about her suggestions. It would be very interesting to see her become involved in Brock’s environmental initiatives in the future.

To conclude, I really enjoyed the presentations and felt challenged by them to look at the world, the environment and environmental communication in new ways. I am excited to see what next week’s presentations hold and what I can take away from those.

Hopeful Communication

On Saturday, February 28, 2015 the St. Catharines Market, along with several other markets within Ontario’s Greenbelt region celebrated the 10th anniversary of the creation of the Greenbelt. The Greenbelt Act protects 2 million acres of land for farmland, forests and wetlands. As a result of the creation of the Greenbelt Act several towns and cities have been able to establish farmer’s markets that support local farmers and provide healthy alternatives for consumers.

The Greenbelt Act and its celebration represents to hope for the future because it indicates the level of protection possible for green spaces and the natural environment. The investment of government funds into the protection of natural spaces and natural resources proves that the environment is part of the government’s agenda. This is significant because one of the major issues discussed in environmental discourses is the lack of government involvement in environmental issues, specifically the lack of legislation to protect the environment, and the lack of government discourse on the topic.

In short, the Greenbelt represents a future where the government becomes actively involved in environmental protection and drastic changes are made in order to protect the future of our planet.

Liu (2011) and ENGOs

Liu (2011) sudies 19 Chinese ENGOs that involve web use and rates these according to their outcome. Liu (2011) uses an analytical framework that assesses the effectiveness of the campaigns of these ENGOs based on how the internet is used to “disseminate information, recruit, educate, organize mobilization, and promote discussion and debate”. Liu (2003) classified the campaigns based on the outcome. ENGOs with a “Web-based basic outcome” were characterized by “a weak goal, were quite active, organized by a single org., targeted all people, triggered high consciousness of engaging the web, and frequently used all five functions of the web” (p. 155). “Web-based moderate outcomes” included thethe Green Web campaign that combated the relocation of the Beijing Zoo. The ENGO “publicized the information on their website and other sites, which attracted local media…called for and collected online signatures from  people to oppose the relocation plan…[and] sent online petition signatures along with a proposal to the People’s Representatives Standing Committee” (p. 155). All of which resulted in the success of the campaign. The final category of campaigns was the “Web-based powerful outcome”. This category contained only one campaign: Save the Tibetan Antelope Campaign. This campaign differs from the other 19 campaigns studied in that “it engaged a large group of organizations (more than 100) to join its web-based alliance” (p. 159).

Liu’s (2011) study is very useful as I look forward to the final project for this course. I have yet to determine precisely what I will do for it, but I am toying with the idea of creating a campaign to combat the Garbage Patch of the Pacific Ocean. The categorization that Liu provides gives a framework for creating a campaign. Obviously, the ultimate goal of every campaign is to successfully achieve the campaign goal. In this case, it might be to clean up the Garbage Patch. Using Liu’s study, I know that in order to ensure the success of my campaign, I must elicit the support of external organizations, particularly ones that have sway in influence over the environment or the general public. I also know that public and media participation is essential to the success of the campaign and a strong Web-presence is important. This information enables me to create a campaign to combat the Garbage Patch that has these elements of successful campaigns and, is therefore, more likely to be successful from the start.

Greenwashing and “Green”

Greenwashing is an advertising strategy that emphasizes the environmental nature of a product in order to sell a product; this may be a product specifically created as ‘environmental’ or a product that it not necessarily green in nature, but can be marketed as green in order to increase sales of the product. Green Works is a brand of ‘green’ cleaning products created by Clorox. Recently, I read an article about a study conducted on the Green Works brand (I do not recall where I read this) that praised it for being more environmental than other cleaning products. However, the study claimed that Green Works products contain chemicals that are harmful to the environment and are, therefore, not environmental. Thus, Green Works is perhaps better for the environment than other Clorox products, but still not the most environmental choice. An individual in our class posed the question during our discussion on greenwashing of why Clorox does not do away with their non-environmental products and replace them with the Green Works product, making the entire brand ‘green’. This an interesting question, one which cannot be easily answered. Evidently, at present Clorox feels that replacing traditional Clorox products with the more expensive, Green Works products would be a bad business plan.

Greenwashing, according to Budinsky and Bryant (2013), “places responsibility on individuals to change their habits, which is appropriate to some extent; however, this shifts the focus away from corporations as the cause of many of the world’s environmental problems and also away from the government as regulators” (p. 209). The government is responsible for regulating production. Should companies like Clorox be permitted to use ingredients in their products that are harmful to the environment? Should companies be able to produce unlimited quantities of these harmful chemicals? Should corporations be granted the liberty to create products that literally destroy the environment? Corporations will always make decisions based on what benefits the company financially. The cheaper the production costs, the better. The cheaper the cost of materials to create a product, the better. Corporations do not make decisions based on what is best for the environment. Even the creation of ‘green’ products is a decision made on the basis of potential sales. After all, people are willing to pay more for environmentally-friendly products. Governments must take responsibility for the protection of the environment as a political issue. Governments must establish legislation that mandates the use of environmentally harmful products and means of production.

Budinsky and Bryant (2013) are correct in saying  greenwashing places the onus on the consumer to consume responsibly, but still consumer nonetheless. Green products function perfectly within the capitalist system, encouraging people to keep buying, and possibly even to buy more than before because their purchases supposedly help the environment. A better solution from the consumer angle is that people stop consuming products that are harmful to the environment and decrease our eco-footprint as much as possible. Stop buying vegetables and fruit that are packaged in plastic. Stop buying TV dinners that come with more wrapping than they do food. Stop buying meats that are wrapped in plastic on a Styrofoam tray. Stop buying excessive amounts of toys and clothing for children who only play with their two favourite toys anyway and wear their favourite t-shirt every day. No, it is not strictly the responsibility of the public to consume responsibly, but it is our responsibility to reduce our consumption and to impose pressure on corporations that practice environmentally destructive behaviours.

Greenwashing is aiding in the destruction of the environment because people believe that all they need to do is buy ‘green’ products in order to protect and preserve the environment. In reality, ‘green’ products are often non-environmental in spite of their ‘green’ packaging or ‘green’ tagline. Instead, responsibility needs to be placed more on governments to mandate environmental protection and on corporations to practice environmental protection.

Debra Rosenthal’s “Hoods and the Woods”

I found this article written by Rosenthal quite interesting, while at the same time a bit of a stretch. Rosenthal mentions the uniqueness of her research. The connection between rap music and the environment has never elicited scholarly attention until the writing of this article. The unique and innovative nature of her research requires some level of praise for its originality. At the same time, Rosenthal’s argument is weak and poorly constructed.

Rosenthal begins by uniting Black narratives with a theme of the urbane, suggesting that in traditional slave narratives, the city is offered as a shelter, a place of freedom from slavery, a place where ownership of the self is granted. After an extensive discussion of slave narratives, Rosenthal provides examples of rap lyrics that discuss and describe urban cities and the hood. Rap music, she acknowledges, describes the city as a place that is restrictive and rundown, one lyric describes a housing project: “hasn’t been up for long. A few days after it was up it seemed uninhabitably new, now, of course, it’s already rundown” (p. 665). Another song describe the city as having “killing streets” (p.665). Rosenthal proceeds to draw an unwarranted connection between the environment described in slave narratives (a prosperous city of hope) and that of rap music (a rundown slum that limits), “rap music is generically related to a long history of black urban discourse. Rap, however, complicates this discourse with its racialization of place that territorializes sexuality, violence, and criminality” (p. 665). There are many themes from slave narratives that are seen throughout rap music including violence, hope (or the dissolution of hope), the search for freedom, etc., but it seems to me that the discussion of the city in the slave narrative is vastly different than that described in rap music.

Furthermore, Rosenthal’s argument is structured around Lawrence Bell’s 4 characteristics that “gauge the environmental tilt of a work” (p. 666). Rosenthal proceeds to point out that much of rap music does not meet these criteria, particularly the third criteria. So, first Rosenthal says here are the four criteria that make a text an environmental text, and then she says but they do not fully apply to rap music. Thus, she is admitting that her argument is immensely flawed. Another thing that I find discounts Rosenthal’s argument is her mention of Eminem during her discussion of the relation between slave narratives and rap music. Eminem is white. Yes, he grew up in the hood. But, because of his whiteness he lacks any inherent connection to slave narratives. Overall, the article is interesting, and perhaps there is some validity to the argument being made. But, it seems to me that Rosenthal needs to find new criteria upon which to structure her argument and perhaps the direct comparison of the environment as described in slave narratives vs. that described in contemporary rap music was not the best way to arrive at her conclusion.