Today we took a look at ways we engage with environmental communication and it just so happened that an extreme weather warning was taking place that week. Hurricane Sandy was a brewing and there was a lot of coverage surrounding its tracking and effects. To be honest I didn’t know much about it, but I did see a lot of tweets and posts about it on the social media sites I am a member of. I felt the effects of it, high winds, cold rain, but didn’t necessarily know what to expect. Many of the posts I saw described anxiety or fear towards the storm (i.e, crossing my fingers that my power doesn’t go out) but other were extremely witty or dispassionate (i.e Sandy needs to calm down because she is seriously PMSing). Later on in the evening I called my mom and she told me that people on the East Coast (New York, New Jersey) were being evacuated and that a few people had died. One casualty was in Toronto! I started taking the weather conditions much more seriously, and then turned on the news to find out the latest.
The idea of weather in general is quite recent to us. What constitutes for natural or unnatural weather anymore? These perceptions are always skewed. And just by looking at the range of posts in the public sphere of social media platforms, it can be noted that we don’t always take these things as seriously and are therefore desensitized to a certain degree. The widespread belief in the western world is that it could never happen to us. Catastrophic weather only effects the ‘other side of the world’. I think we employ the hypocognition technique a little too much. This means that we can easily ignore something, “if it doesn’t exist then it isn’t a problem.” Lakoff elaborates on environmental hypocognition as being, ” the lack of ideas we need. We are suffering from massive hypocognition in the case of the environment. The reason is that the environment is not just about the environment. It is intimately tied up with other issue areas economics, energy, food, health, trade, and security” (p.76)
Personally, I feel like I don’t engage myself in environmental communication. In regards to media outlets, I watch the news sometimes when its on or am flipping through channels, but on the web for example, I never actively search information out. The same goes for newspapers, if I happen to be reading one, I automatically go to a section I am familiar with, or a story that directly relates to my interests. I never WANT to know more about the environment because it either worries me or makes me feel useless. The act of ‘saving’ our planet is framed as such a big undertaking that sometimes it feels better to ignore it or place it in the context of humour because mostly, it is something much bigger than us.