Breaking the Cycle: Rethinking Media Narratives on Climate Change

Our Information is Unsustainable

How the news and the way we are presented information about climate change needs to change.

Sustainability and the strive for a sustainable world is ever-growing, yet attitudes towards how we will achieve sustainability conflict. Climate change activism is always somewhere in the news, but more often than not, it is in a negative light. Similarly, the figures and data science presented in mainstream media are usually alarming and fear mongering. Climate change is a real problem today, and we should all be concerned about it, but we should not feel paralysed by it. 

The Prince’s Trust Charity found that ‘49% of people aged 16 to 25 feel anxious about their future daily, while 59% agree it is frightening for their generation.’

The younger generation’s attitudes towards achieving sustainability are doused in pessimism and doomerism. The notion that the way we are heading means that we won’t have a future is all too prevalent among the young, those who should be the ones looking forward to taking the reins. So, why do we feel this way?

The obvious answer is because of climate change. Yes, the world needs to change, and we do need to figure out how to reverse our impact, and fast. But I think the real reason why we feel so unmotivated, uninspired, lost is because of the news. Social media, mainstream media, education and information are presented through a bombardment of conflicting terror. All we have to do is scroll through Instagram to see wildfires, turn on the news to hear politicians disregarding the data or watch videos of activists being tormented by those who are disillusioned by the message. 

When researching sustainability and climate change, a trend emerged in the headlines. Take the following as examples: ‘South Asia’s future in the balance,’ ‘Climate change has increased premature birth risk by 60%’ and ‘New study finds erratic weather fuelled by climate change will worsen locusts outbreaks.’ Upon reading each of these articles, they each explained that Asia’s future might be in the balance, that premature birth could increase and climate change might worsen locust outbreaks. Each of these articles suppose that these events might happen, not that they already have, as the titles would lead you to believe. What they are doing here is striving for a click, but when the average reader’s attention is limited to the headline, it has resulted in the world being told the worst will or has happened. This is unsustainable. Our information is unsustainable. 

Let me explain. Sustainability is defined as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ The information and figures presented to us meet the needs of the present, it gets people talking, tweeting, commenting, scrolling but it also limits the opportunities for future generations. It has created a sense of debilitation by barraging us with gloom. Outlets that churn out misleading, clickbait, sometimes downright false information are only out to serve themselves. The value of information has been replaced with the number of clicks. This has resulted in an atmosphere of distrust. 

‘48% of people in the UK believe the government is dishonest when it comes to climate change.’

This is true even for those fighting for climate change too, groups have named themselves the ‘last generation.’ How does this label spread sustainability? By naming us the last generation, they are taking away the idea of the future generation by manifesting that there won’t ever be one. I understand that climate change is a problem, problems are therefore not going to be reported with complete positivity, but the strange rhetoric of lying down and pessimistically burying our heads in the sand by saying we don’t have a future is just as detrimental as our governments refusing to implement change. 

As a media outlet, Tales to Inspire tries to spread stories of how real people can make real impact. The stories aren’t fairy tales, they acknowledge that our governments are failing us and that the figures are alarming, but what they do not do is leave the reader feeling like it is all over. 

Finally, as Hannah Ritchie, a data scientist with a great perspective on climate change who gave me the idea for this article, said, ‘it’s time to stop telling our children that they’re going to die from climate change. It’s not only cruel, it might actually make it more likely to come true.’

This article was written by Megan Morris on behalf of Tales to Inspire 

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