Under Western Skies (Tuesday, Part 2)

Since Tuesday was almost a 12 hour day for me at UWS, I decided to break it up into two posts (see part 1 here).

UWS logo

After lunch, the keynote was delivered by Adrian Ivakhiv, professor at the Rubenstein School of Environment at the University of Vermont. He talked about the intersections of culture through the media and the environment.

His first paragraph spoke to me the most. Ivakhiv said that “science and technology will not save the eco-crisis,” but little bits would help. He believes that we need more rhetoric, arguments, images, motivation, models, habits, visions sensibilities and desires instead.

I agree that a more personal experience will help with the environmental crises we are dealing with today, but I think they now get their start from the media. For example, many people aren’t directly affected by the BP Oil Spill or the droughts in California. However, when these issues are brought online and shared through news or environmental organizations, they are brought to light. Therefore, people have a choice on whether to help or not, which often adds to more people thinking about these environmental issues.

During the evening reception, I presented my poster about environmental blogs. When I started the project, I figured that blogs backed by large news organizations like National Geographic, Huffington Post and the New York Times would have more readers. I found the opposite.

My UWS poster
My UWS poster

When cataloging Twitter followers as a way to decide if these websites are popular, I found the activist websites which aggregate real news stories and add to them are more popular.

This conference is the smallest I’ve ever been to, and the poster session was split between two conferences: ours and a citizen science conference. As always, when I talk about blogs, scientists ask me how they can get more page views on their research blog and how they can engage with the public through social media!

I love getting asked these questions because it shows me that scientists really do want to communicate their research and with help of the internet, it has become easier.

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