How best to deal with the subject of Communication focused on environmental issues, also intended as health and wellness, at the height of COVID19 health emergency? This is the theme that Maurice Abbati, journalist, author and lecturer (editor of MONACŒCOART®) tackled in April 2020 within a targeted workshop, upon the invitation of Dr Edoardo Croci, professor at the Department of Social and Political Sciences of Bocconi University and Research Director at the Institute for Environmental and Energy Policy and Economics (IEFE). "The Environmental Communication: between emotional and scientific aspects" was the core fil rouge introduced to the panelists selected among representatives with specific training in the media and publishing sector in charge of addressing environmental issues and informing on key issues of the circular economy. The event has aroused great public interest despite its online format due to the lockdown in place at that time.
The topic is as timely as ever, taking into account some recent research that have highlighted how skilled communication is becoming the balance between the World of Science, experts with different backgrounds and the general public. Designing a constructive communication as a result of a closer relationship between science experts and responsible communicators is indicated as the best way to increase the involvement of the general public on issues of difficult understanding while making science more "human", that is closer to the everyday dimension. A recent research study, developed over 14 years from various American institutes aimed at creating a science-in-action storytelling able to depict scientists background and human narrative about all members carrying out the research projects. Advanced creative and multimedia techniques addressed to both adults and new generations can really make the difference in journalism and filming in close contact with the world of science to certify its contents after specific verification and pre-distribution test screenings.
Stories are widely understood to be one of the most impactful ways to make scientists and their science relatable to the larger public (Dahlstrom, 2014; Jones and Anderson Crow, 2017; Joubert et al., 2019)
Communication strategies are increasingly moving towards a more interactive step where to foster emotionally engaging methods capable to push the recipients to act. This also includes disruptive communication taking into account psychology of change, climate activism and virtual reality technologies.
What challenges to face in the current Post Truth Era?
The historical moment we are living is having serious consequences from an economic and social point of view and it pushes us to rethink our own lifestyle and our choices. But also, to reflect on the delicate balance between Man and Nature, matter of vital importance that pandemic experience should teach us.
This combination of vocabulary, more or less agreeable depending on the point of view, highlights a fundamental issue not to be neglected. We have been talking about ‘Anthropocene’ for a while to define the contemporary era focused on human beings’ responsibility in determining the future of Planet Earth with the awareness that mankind constitutes only a ‘small piece’ of the complex global Ecosystem.
Communicating is the result of a ‘socializing’ process involving the exchange and sharing of information for a particular public who processes the environmental message through a coding process. Not by chance, ‘communication chain identifies all those elements that accompany the eco-message from the issuer to the recipient, including their feedbacks. Emotional component is essential in all this but we have to deal with the proliferation of unfounded information as well as fake news through the Net and Social Media. Thus, this risk of misunderstandings is seeing a significant rise. We are living in the ‘post-truth’ society, neologism introduced by Oxford Dictionary in 2016 to detect modern times where public opinion is increasingly affected by mere feelings and personal assessments, setting aside any ‘critical sense’.
Being able to communicate clearly environmental issues can save the Planet?
Definitely, ‘Green’ Communication cannot be reduced to a mere piece of information or a simple exchange of ideas on the main topical issues about Environment and Sustainability. It cannot do without its ‘symbolic’ nature expressed through language and every other creative form in order to satisfy both its pragmatic and functional dimension able to guide choices, transmit values, build relationships, etc.
If you were asked to identify key points to focus on, what could we answer? Following a holistic approach taking into consideration different shades of eco-communication, we could summarize by points what we really need.
Communication Clarity and Transparency; Multidisciplinarity; Multimedia Creativity; Performance Monitoring and Continual Improvement.
These are the main steps of the ‘virtuous cycle’ of ‘green’ communicating that I have identified through unpublished case studies. The topic is becoming increasingly important on the assumption that eco-communication is even more crucial both as a relational medium and as a key tool for implementing social responsibility in the production of goods and services.
Corporate Social Responsibility, in fact, cannot be used only as a way to ‘colour’ a company ‘green’ at the sight of customers and stakeholders. We need, on the contrary, to create an efficient data reporting system based on reliable sources and indicators. For this purpose, a series of accounting and reporting tools have been operating for a long time at the micro system (e.g.: environmental system and product declaration, environmental and social budgets, etc.).
Skilled communication to boost eco-responsibility and sustainable reputation is being considered a real must to make business reliable, attractive, proactive, user and environmentally friendly. Traceability, coherence, and honesty are essential to
By Maurice Abbati
Springer International Publishing
>> Christian A. Klöckner, Erica Löfström: "Disruptive Environmental Communication", Springer International Publishing, 2022, pp. 158.
>> Building a collaborative, university-based science-in-action video storytelling model that translates science for public engagement and increases scientists’ relatability Dena K. Seidel1,2*, Xenia K. Morin1,3, Marissa Staffen1,4, Richard D. Ludescher1,5, James E. Simon1,3 and Oscar Schofield1,2 1 Rutgers Center for Agricultural Food Ecosystems, Institute for Food Nutrition and Health, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, United States, 2 Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, United States, 3 Department of Plant Biology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, United States, 4 Department of 4-H Youth Development, Essex County Cooperative Extension, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, United States, 5 Department of Food Science, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, United States
>> Online workshop “Environmental communication: between emotional and scientific aspects” held by Green Economy Observatory (GEO), Policy Working Group – Bocconi University – Milan – 23rd April 2020.
>> Maurizio Abbati, "Communicating the Environment to Save the Planet. A journey into Eco-Communication", Springer International Publishing, 2019, pp. 140.