Environmental Issues: Foundation and Framing

by Samuel Slaten

Environmental problems and the solutions to overcome them should be on the minds of everyone rich or poor, it affects everyone  in one aspect or another. However we are seeing more and more the blatant disregard of primary issues such as global warming, toxic waste, and destruction of ecosystems. So what exactly is reason for the lack of interest in such important issues? I believe the problem resides in the way the issues are being portrayed to the public and the how the the problems are being shown relating to everyday life. So how do we address these problems? In two steps, by adding a foundation for people to base their perception of the issues on. It is essential to show people that these issues do affect everyday life and how exactly they can observe it. Then in order to bring the issues to heart it is necessary to frame it so that people can actually understand the causes and science behind the issues. Trying to understand the issues without understanding the actual substance of the issues results in misinformed people who can easily be mislead.

So how can scientists, authors, and news analysts add a foundation for people to base their perception upon? First it is essential to show that even though other issues might not be affecting them other issues are. And that these issues are interconnected to other serious issues affecting different communities.  One of the issues effecting urban populations is air pollution, smog is one of the better examples of this. Smog , I think, is one of those issues that can be used not only to educate and inform the population but also to draw awareness to other environmental issues. Smog is also easy to form a foundation around because it is one of the easier issues to see and relate with. According to one news source smog is so abundant in 10 of the 11 most populated states in America and that in many of their cities the air quality level has reached above the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) level of safe air (Meth). Another example is from Ontario Canada where in the past 10 years there have been over 100 Smog advisories  lasting 275 days in total (“Ontario Ministry of the Environment” ). Thus it can be assumed the issue of smog is one that many ordinary citizens are affected by and can observe directly. Thus, by using an issue like the one of smog environmentalists, sociologists, and scientists alike can raise the awareness levels and then direct them into other issues that are linked to smog, Such as rising air temperature (global warming), emission standards ( the impact of industry), and waste dumps(toxic and normal). Thus by adding a foundation that is easy for people to observe and understand we can raise the interest and awareness levels of other issues. Here I used smog as an example but in truth any issue can be used as long as it meets various criteria, the different columns of the foundation: 1. It relates to vast amounts of people everyday. 2. It is easily observed. 3.It has connections with other issues around the world.

So now that the idea of a foundation has been established the question is how can we frame the issues in question so that everyone doesn’t need a science book near by in order to understand the issues? If people do not understand the reason for why the problems are arising then how can they be expected to advocate for their change. First, public figures need to be able to explain these issues themselves. People need to be able to rely on their elected officials when problems affecting their communities arise. Secondly the facts and data surrounding the issues needs to be simplified to terms and reasoning  that everyone can accurately perceive. People will not have an interest in something they do not understand.  This also coincides with how people of influence portray the importance of these issues and the people they affect. According to Mr. Gibbons from the University of Georgia whom did a survey of ecology graduate students. The number one problem facing the environment today is apathy (Gibbons). How can normal citizens be expected to show concern when the people representing them show no concern for the issues. How can people be expected to understand the issues when their leaders and idols themselves do not understand the issues, or at least not well enough to explain them. How can an English, American, or French citizen be expected to relate to a scientist in India or Japan or vice versa? They also must be able to see that these issues affect everyone and one cannot simply remove themselves from the problem. This inverted quarantine effect  (the idea that one can just remove themselves from a problem that affects everyone) is not a long term solution but a quick fix that will end with the same result. Each communities’ leaders and icons should show concern and advocate that we have to come together for a solution, not expect change to just occur. As they say, home is where the heart is. So show people things that adversely affect their home and loved ones and then they will demand for change.


Gibbons, Whit . “WHAT ARE OUR TOP 10 ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS?.” uga.edu. UGA, 06 206. Web. 2 Dec 2012. <http://srel.uga.edu/ecoviews/ecoview060326.htm&gt;.

Meth, Madeline . “Center for American Progress .” Center for American Progress . (2006): n. page. Web. 2 Dec. 2012. <http://www.americanprogress.org/press/release/2006/11/30/15683/new- report-u-s-breathes-dangerous-levels-of-smog/>.

“Ontario Ministry of the Enviroment.” Ontario Ministry of the Enviroment. (2012): n. page. Web. 2 Dec. 2012. <http://www.airqualityontario.com/press/smog_advisories.php&gt;.


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