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What does environmental communication look like?

Warning: This is going to get a bit meta.

Ever since launching the IECA website 7 years ago, one question has pursued me. What does environmental communication look like?

Visitors to the site will be very familiar with the image of the green phone box in the countryside that decorates the home page. You might even be a bit tired of it :-)

Well, change is coming. We will soon be working on an overdue update to the IECA website. We will be re-theming (changing the look) of the site. And we will be making it mobile-friendly by using a responsive design. At the same time, we want to add some new images.

So, how can we show environmental communication in action? I don't mean how to show environmental issues like climate change, air pollution, forest plunder, etc. No, this is meta. How can we show communication about those and other environmental issues and/or their solutions?

If you look on stock photo sites or just Google images, you can find lots of pictures of "communication": people talking to each other, public meetings, newspaper headlines, old TV sets, computers, satellite dishes, etc. And you can find plenty of pretty images of nature. You can also find pictures of clearcuts, dams, solar panels, electric cars, windmills, and many other things that relate to environmental issues and how to address them.

This is the sign you've been looking forBut how can we portray communication about environmental issues or solutions in a single image? A green phone box in the countryside? OK, that sort of works on a metaphorical level. But what else? Environmental protests featuring signs with environmental messages? That fits. But we all know environmental communication is more than that.

So I'm looking for your help finding royalty-free images that portray "environmental communication." If you don't know of any specific images, but you have some ideas of what might work, I would would like to hear those as well.

And please feel free to let me know if there is anything you would like to see changed or fixed with the website update.

You can post your suggestions (descriptions and links) here as comments (must be logged-in members), send them to me by email, use the site's contact form, or tweet to me @MarkMeisner.

I look forward to hearing what you think.

Thanks everyone for being part of The IECA.

Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

About the Author: 

Mark Meisner is the Executive Director of the International Environmental Communication Association (IECA).


Phaedra C. Pezzullo's picture

Environmental Communication Visuals

Thanks, Mark, for updating all the digital media for IECA that you note and raising this question. Robbie Cox & I think about this a lot with our textbook. Last edition, the anonymous reviewer feedback only had one main criticism: why did we not feature humans on our cover? (it featured an offshore oil rig) Now, we do again (I found an image of a large National Park gathering--also to highlight care and not just crisis); however, I was surprised, given how many folks have started to write about trees and nonhuman animals communicating. I think an offshore oil rig speaks volumes myself.

It's relatively easy to find environmental protest images, but few seem to enjoy seeing images of meetings (even of COPs) or petition signing or people walking on a trail talking. Less dramatic, I presume. We try to cover a range of communication practices from face to face gatherings to air pollution apps. Since one can't be exhaustive, inevitably, someone or something is left out. I still say to all publishers that I don't want a book cover image with only white people, and, yet, in 2018, apparently, one still has to ask or find one's own image.

Anyway, as I'm sure you know, Google search makes it easier to find royalty-free images with its Advanced Search; there's also other ones. I think getting specific can help one move away from the generic. We also ask folks for specific ones we want, like of a doctor in Flint--and often, they will grant use for educational purposes.

Probably nothing you haven't considered here, but I spend a lot of time thinking about this topic and wanted to keep the conversation going. I'd be interested in which images people like or find missing from environmental communication publications and publicity online.

Phaedra C. Pezzullo, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Communication
College of Media, Communication, & Information
University of Colorado Boulder

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