Media and Eco-Activism

Donna Haraway is an activist. Her activism takes the form of thinking, writing, tracing and insisting on the webs of complex connections that reveal our environment and the ways we are stitched into it – like the story of horse urine and hormones that made up chapter 5 of Staying with the Trouble. The Yes Men are also activists. Their projects remind me of Haraway’s string figures as their webs(ites) are handed back and forth between hoaxers and hoaxed, news media and local communities. Today we consider the intersection of media, activism and environmentalism. As usual browse the page, follow links, watch videos, spend time where you find you are most interested.

  • Does any of this media call to mind Haraway’s concerns with oddkin, sympoeitics, tracing and telling complex stories, making connections?
  • How does the media (webpages, videos, images) use affective, cognitive and emotional registers?
  • What mind frames do you detect? Are there contradictions? Does the form contradict the content?
  • Who is making this media? Where does their authority lie?

Artist Groups plus Direct Action as News Event –The Yes Men are an example of a group that leverage the news media in order to to influence public opinion. Their strategy is to create a newsworthy event through hoax, stunts, theater, performance. The event has 2 audiences, first a local audience that takes part in the event, second an audience that learns about the event through the news media.

Direct Action Groups who use Media – some activists and activist groups use direct action and civil disobedience to attempt to stop activities that damage the environment, or to bring attention to environmental issues. Their actions may have an immediate impact on the situation, but they are often designed to get picked up by news media. The groups involved also use internet and social media outlets to organize and publicize their actions. Usually the direct action is non-violent. If violence is used it’s used against things not people. Typically these activists are willing to break the law and risk arrest & imprisonment for their beliefs.

From wikipedia- 2008 treesitters in Berkeley CA
  • Direct Action and TREES: some examples
    • 2008 – story about the last Redwood tree-sitters to leave after saving a forest, an action and story that rumbled on for 20 years.
    • 2020 – The UK is planning a High Speed Train Route (HS2) , (1 min anti-HS2 video). Tree sitters tried to block the felling of ancient woodlands in its path. They were removed and on April 3rd 2020 the High Court in the UK gave the go-ahead for the felling. IMAGE
April 2019 5 day street action
  • Direct Action and Animals – TRIGGER WARNING distressing images
  • Here the direct action was to gather the footage for this video and a major tactic was leveraging a celebrity to give the message.
  • PETA: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
    • TRIGGER WARNING – images and videos on this site are disturbing
  • Here the action is online petitions: end factory farming

Eco-Heroes, Eco-Martyrs, Eco-Terrorists – activists have been imprisoned, killed and accused of terrorism.

Environmental activists v. workers 

  • In her book “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate,” (2014) Naomi Klein makes the point that livelihoods of loggers, fishermen, miners, oil and tar sand workers are often pitted against environmental goals. You saw evidence of this kind of conflict in the pipeline section above.
  • But to end today, here is a hopeful story from 2017 of environmentalists/potential loggers working together: