The environment and groups campaigning for the protection and preservation of the environment have embraced social media wholeheartedly. Social media is now used extensively for campaigning and connect with people with like minds locally and cross-nationally. Social media also opens up channels for new support for campaigns and ideas.
The environment is shared by all organisms on the face of this planet; therefore as the most advanced organism, we as humans have the responsibility to take care of it. The environment has increasingly been threatened by rapid expansion of extractive processes to keep up with the demands driven by consumerism and capitalism. IN recent times, technology has adapted to be more environmentally friend. The example of “green” business can be used. However, the adaptations we make are not quick enough to cover up the amount of damage being done to the environment. Although the changes can be argued to be simultaneous, the reality is that far more damage is being done than what is being planned to implement to prevent further damage.
Social media has become an important tool for providing the public with a voice and a means for public to participate in influencing or disallowing environmental decisions made by governments and corporations. These decisions may affect us all therefore it is essential that social media provides the medium for us to voice such concerns.
Social media has allowed people to form as a collective crowd with the same visions and opinions. This organisational feature available through social media has means people are able to stay highly connected through social media, to support and spread environmental messages in a rapid, dynamic format. However, a problem that arises is maintaining this support for long periods of time. Due to the rapid changes that take place, it very easy to loose attention from individuals, they may move on to something they find more interesting or funny as people often do on social media. This is a trend seen in every area of activism, and is not just particular to the environment sector.
Social media has propelled the rise of the independent activist. The term citizen journalist is used more and frequently in current times. Due to everyone having access on social media and the internet as they are mobile, it allows them to upload the news on to their various social media platforms. For instance, during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Gulf Coast residents used Facebook and Twitter as platforms to share their personal stories and provide independent or alternative new sources and media that was captured by their communities. Since people now look to their social media streams as primary sources of news and information, this type of independent vocalization can be both positive (encouraging alternative streams of information) and problematic when information isn’t verified or trustworthy.
Social media can also be used to raise support and to create pressure on specific campaigns. An example is this is when Greenpeace targeted Shell Oil operations in the Arctic Circle using a YouTube video named “Everything is Awesome” to indirectly influence Shell partners, including Lego. This tactic has worked as Lego has ended its contract with Shell after this Greenpeace campaign.
Hardware sensors and personal wearables have started enabling individuals to track information about themselves and their surroundings in real time. They’ve given people the ability to track their own personal health through wearables and apps that act as digital fills-ins for the odour and symptom logs of old. Sensors are becoming more widely applicable, as people can now set up networks that independently monitor environmental concerns such as air and water quality. The ability of citizens, journalists, government and even corporations to use sensors, wearables and apps to monitor the environment is a promising but still emerging field and one in which verification, calibration and access to tools has yet to fully determine the effect it will have on environmental regulation and enforcement.
Similar to sensing hardware and app development, geolocation and hashtags on social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter have created a way for people to share stories about their local environments, connecting them to larger environmental topics. An example of this was people geotagging images in the 2015 California drought that were in close geographic proximity, and linking them back to the larger context of long-term effects of the drought using hashtags such as “#californiadrought,” “#drought” or “#droughtshaming.” The Divest/Invest movement started by students that used the simple “#divest” and “#climate” tags to link local campaigns, wins and issues to the wider movement of society divesting itself of dependence on fossil fuels, investing in renewables and calling attention to the effects of climate change across the world is another successful instance of a small group using hashtags to link local movements to larger environmental questions.
Despite of all this, it is still impossible to grasp the reality of environmental concerns unless you are on the front line experiencing them first hand. On the other hand, Social media and sensors that connect with online networks have the potential to change the way that the environmental sector and all stakeholders involved — public, corporate and government — interact, share information and make decisions. Social media furthers the reach of the public, allowing members to influence shifts in the environmental sector on every issue from moving away from fossil fuel dependence to renewable energy or changing the dynamic of current conversations on climate change. Another important trend is that social media has the potential to influence the circular economy, a concept that goes beyond biomimicry to identify ways that both our physical and material assets and our economic ones can match the earth’s cycles of use, reuse and rejuvenation.
In a way similar to the Divest/Invest movement, creating a circular economy would require the full participation of all stakeholders, from consumers to manufacturers. This is the type of participation campaigns that rely on social media are encouraging in order to assist the translation of movements from local economies to a larger scale.