🌿Wild Ones #47: Environmental Communication Digest

The Role of Universities in Facilitating Academic Advocacy and Activism + An interview with Robert Macfarlane + Climate Communication in the News + More!

Hi everyone, welcome back to Wild Ones, a weekly digest by me, Gavin Lamb, about news, ideas, research, and tips in environmental communication. If you’re new, welcome! You can read more about why I started Wild Ones here. Sign up here to get these digests in your inbox:


📚 What I’m reading

Two articles published within a couple days of each other on how academic advocacy and activism can be supported (or not) to address climate change:


👀 What I’m watching

Geoffrey Supran speaks on Bloomberg News about his recent article he co-authored with Harvard colleague Naomi Oreskes: Rhetoric and frame analysis of ExxonMobil’s climate change communications.

  • The article is about ExxonMobil’s use of language in public communications and advertising to shift responsibility for climate change away from companies and onto consumers.

  • The authors show how “ExxonMobil's public climate change messaging mimics tobacco industry propaganda” to downplay seriousness and individualize responsibility.

  • This short news segment with Supran is also a good example of researchers sharing language and communications research with the media, as Paige West, a Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University, points out in her tweet (click to watch):


🎧 What I’m listening to

Robert Macfarlane: The Worlds Beneath Our Feet. An Interview with Krista Tippett, On Being.

If you have a chance today, listen to this great interview, "The Worlds Beneath Our Feet," with the environmental writer and 'linguist of the landscape' Robert Macfarlane, in conversation with Krista Tippett with The On Being Project. It was released a couple of days ago and explores entanglements between language and landscape in Macfarlane's recent book 'Underland: A Deep Time Journey."

Here's an interesting moment from the interview where Macfarlane talks about the geological idea of 'deep time' and what it might mean for reimagining environmental advocacy today:

Robert Macfarlane: "...deep time is a sharpening context for me. It says, look at the gift of being, now. Look at the astonishing responsibility of legacy-leaving. And look at what you’ve inherited in the wonder of this world. And what will our time leave? That, for me, is the big Anthropocene question, and it’s posed beautifully by Jonas Salk, the immunologist who invented, more or less singlehandedly, the polio vaccine and has helped eradicate that disease: “Are we being good ancestors?”

  • I’m also listening to:


🔍 Tools & Resources I’m exploring


📰 News and Events


📚 Research

  • Letter to the Editor: The Case for Effective Risk Communication: Lessons from a Global Pandemic, by L Blair Paulik, Russell E Keenan, Judi L Durda in Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management.

    “Putting science-based information in the hands of public officials, as well as providing tools for effectively communicating that information to others, will contribute to better-informed decisions for protecting public health and the environment. As technical professionals, we see the need to build teams that establish more transparent and effective risk communication strategies.”

  • Adaptation of sperm whales to open-boat whalers: rapid social learning on a large scale? By Hal Whitehead, Tim D. Smith and Luke Rendell in Biology Letters:

    Animals can mitigate human threats, but how do they do this, and how fast can they adapt? Hunting sperm whales was a major nineteenth century industry. Analysis of data from digitized logbooks of American whalers in the North Pacific found that the rate at which whalers succeeded in harpooning (‘striking’) sighted whales fell by about 58% over the first few years of exploitation in a region…It appears that whales swiftly learned effective defensive behaviour…This rapid, large-scale adoption of new behaviour enlarges our concept of the spatio-temporal dynamics of non-human culture.”


💡 Ideas


💬 Quotes I’m thinking about

“What started as a journey into pure matter became, to my surprise, an exploration of hidden human depths, both wondrous and atrocious. We all carry underlands within us, but only rarely acknowledge their existence.

My wish was to answer [Amitav] Ghosh’s call for writing that might actively “unconceal” the traces of our fast-altering world: its untimely surfacings, its entombments, its visions of both darkness and light. The hope was to find a hybrid non-fiction form that might – by speaking both of the bright time of the lived human moment, and the more-than-human resonances of deeper times (ice time, tree time, species time, the giant, shifting lifetime of rock) – be at once ancient and urgent.”

Robert Macfarlane, on writing Underland


Thanks so much as always for your interest in my work, and if you found this digest useful, please consider sharing with others who might find it interesting too😊 I'd also love to hear from you. Leave a comment to let me know what you think about this digest, what areas of environmental communication you’re involved in/most interest you, or anything you’d like to see more of in Wild Ones:)

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