The Media is Affecting Climate Change: Here’s What You Can Do


Alyssa Suba, Multimedia Editor

We are constantly surrounded by the media nowadays, whether we want to see it or not. Who creates the media we see every day? How representative is mainstream media? Whose point of view is it told from?


The Critical Media Project is a free media literacy web resource for educators and students that enhances young people’s critical thinking and empathy while building on their capacity to advocate for change regarding questions of identity. Race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic class, religion, age, and disability are topics that are represented in the media, yet they do not accurately represent the people who identify with them. You can learn more about why identity matters in Critical Media Literacy on their website.


In 2022, the Critical Media Project is hosting a conference from Oct. 21-23 at the California State University, East Bay Oakland Center. This year’s conference will be based on Paulo Freire’s notion of praxis, which aims to orient the world towards greater social and environmental justice via reflection and decisive action. 


Event organizer and University of Massachusetts at Amherst professor, Dr. Allison Butler expressed excitement over the in-person modality of the conference, stating, “Although this [environmental justice] isn’t my area of research, I’m excited to go as a participant to learn more about what work is being done in Critical Media Literacy. For the first time, I’ll be able to travel back to Oakland and I’m excited to travel back and meet up in person with my dear colleagues and friends.” 


Regarding this year’s theme of environmental responsibility, Butler stressed the importance of the conference’s mission to apply the spotlight of media on environmentally pertinent issues. “On a bigger picture level, it’s such incredibly important work. We have so much misinformation about climate change and we have so much valuable information about climate change. It’s not all misinformation. There’s a lot of really valid and valuable information, but how do we make sense of it?” Butler explained.


According to Butler, Critical Media Literacy helps us live outside our own lived experiences when it comes to climate change. “When we live in a community, for example, where you live, maybe you see wildfires [in California] and you get an idea of what’s going on with climate change from direct experience. We don’t have wildfires in Massachusetts, but we’re dealing with a significant drought right now. It’s so hard to get outside of our own lived experiences and recognize the impact that is happening around the globe,” she added. 


Furthermore, Critical Media Literacy fosters the necessary forum to ask probing questions and enable greater understanding of the issues at hand. “You and I can spend a lot of our own time in our mainstream corporate media learning about the melting glaciers, or I can learn about the wildfires that you’re experiencing, and you can learn about the drought that’s happening here. We can experience that as an intellectual project, but I think critical media literacy can help us critique it, can help us analyze it, and ideally can help us make a change,” Butler chimed.


As part of the conference, Butler plans to tackle the idea that individuals are not the primary perpetrators of climate change, adding the ways in which Critical Media Literacy can aid in influencing large corporations positively. It helps us “deconstruct the language used in mainstream corporate media about their definitions or their understandings of responsibility and ways in which we can start to make this really overwhelming learning curve that we all have a bit more understandable,” Butler stated. 


If these topics pique your interest, come out to this year’s free Critical Media Literacy Conference. Come with open ideas, an open mind, and a notebook. Aside from exposure to cutting-edge research and networking opportunities, participants will be learning a lot of crucial ‘big theory’ ideas and practical ways to take some of those next steps in applying these concepts  to your work and major. To register, find and fill the Google Form here