Media: how to accompany the environmental transition? (episode 2)
Episode 2/3. Explain the issues and orders of magnitude
My radio is playing the morning show while I scroll through the news on my smartphone; I haven’t had my coffee yet and the media have already given me ten good reasons to fall into depression. It is essential to talk about the problems, but it is just as important to talk about the solutions! Especially on ecology and environmental economics: shouldn’t journalists accompany the transition?
With the Dametis blog So I wanted to interview journalists about their work. I will summarize what I have learned in three articles. May they inspire
explain with pedagogy
or investigate solutions
all show that a different media treatment is possible, to better fight together against global warming.
– Episode 2/3: Explaining the Issues and Orders of Magnitude
La Bille bleue (The Blue Marble), 1972, par l'équipage d'Apollo 17.
Highlighting solutions more often is essential (read episode 1). But the media also have a role to play in educating people about major issues such as global warming and the environmental economy.
Episode 2. Explain the issues and orders of magnitude
The Dametis blog interviewed Arthur Haimovicieditor-in-chief of
: “The environment in the broadest sense is the major issue of our time, and in my opinion one of the roles of the media is to make people understand the scales of magnitude. I find a certain disproportion nowadays between the place a subject takes in newspapers, magazines and its real importance. And while many media outlets opt for green, eco-friendly coverage, these topics remain in practice under-treated compared to the issue at stake. »
Clément Rouget, web editorial manager at
also points out the challenge for the media to better take into account the scales of climate and energy. “The human mind has difficulty perceiving orders of magnitude – that’s the way our brains work, and it affects everyone, readers and journalists alike. As a result, there is often a disproportion between the place of a subject in the media and its real impact on the climate. For example, between small everyday eco-actions – which the media are not wrong to talk about! – and the closure of a coal-fired power plant in Poland, there is a huge difference. » Among the subjects that are not covered in the mainstream media, compared to their importance for the environmental transition: our energy mix or the European green taxonomy.
How can we better talk about environmental economics in the media?
One of the solutions, according to Clément Rouget (Pour L’Éco)One solution, according to Clément Rouget (Pour L’Éco), is to take the time to find the right economist for the topic at hand. “For a 24-hour news channel, for example, it is very practical to have general economists (sometimes think tank leaders) who are very available and can talk about almost any subject. But environmental economics is a major subject, it is important to give the floor to an expert who has really dug into the point addressed, an expert who is moreover not always available depending on his schedule. » On the other hand, media with a different time frame, such as weeklies and monthlies, can more easily take the time to find the best contact person.
While I try to imagine what the daily life of a journalist might be like, having to find “the right” expert for each article or program, an excellent column in Le Monde (April 26) appeals to me. It is titled “The fight against global warming is at the center of everything, except for economists” and its author – the journalist Stéphane Lauer – explains: “In September 2019, two eminent professors of economics, one at the University of Warwick, Andrew Oswaldthe other at the London School of economics, Nicholas SternIn a recent study, the authors of the World Economic Forum (WEMF) found that of the 77,000 articles published by the most reputable academic journals in economics, only 57 were on the subject of climate change, a proportion of 0. %.. » So, is it easy for the media (general or specialized) to talk about environmental economics if they cannot rely on abundant research and many specialized economists? And could the new generations of economists, who are said to be more sensitive to the climate issue, change the situation?
I also wonder if getting the best climate economists to talk is enough. Esther Duflo and Abhijit V. Banerjee (both 2019 Nobel Prize winners in economics), in their book Useful savings for difficult times (Seuil, 2020 French version) explain: “Most people trust economists too little to listen to what they have to say (…). This trust deficit is not unrelated to the fact that the consensus among economists (when it exists) is often totally different from the mainstream view. » One thing is certain: in order to rebuild trust, the media undoubtedly have a positive role to play.
Dare to be complex and nuanced… with education
The journalists interviewed agree that many media outlets tend (on energy and climate issues) to sacrifice complexity to short formats. Sometimes by self-censoring to take into account the real or supposed expectations of their audience…
“Another factor is that political discourse influences media discourse, and vice versa
reminds us Clément Rouget (Pour L’Éco). On the one hand, the media will sometimes focus on very simple or anecdotal (climate-related) facts – information that is cheaper to produce but can generate clicks. Or focus on topics like nuclear power, leaving out other crucial issues. On the other hand, we have the politicians who, as rational economic agents, want to address issues that are newsworthy; they therefore have no interest in getting out of a mediocre debate. In short, a snake that bites its tail, but it is not a fatality! »
Arthur Haimovici (HEC Stories) also believes that “The French media could have a more solid scientific culture. “On some environmental topics, I feel better informed by youtubers like The Awakener than by this or that major national newspaper. I also read a lot The Guardian
for its often well-argued and scientifically supported articles. »
But isn’t it elitist to advocate more complexity? Not for Clément Rougetwho has made pedagogy his specialty with
For the Eco
: “Covid-19 showed that people who are exposed to complex but well explained information, repeatedly and in the right formats, understand very well! People who are far from overeducated have immersed themselves in the intricacies of messenger RNAs or variants with great interest. Hopefully, after the pandemic, the next big topic that everyone will want to become an “expert” on – in quotes – will be the fight against global warming! »
Julian Aristizabal (CEO and co-founder of Dametis), with the editorial staff of the Dametis blog.
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