How Can Social Media Save Our Planet?

For my final project I wanted to look into how social media can be used to save our planet. Although it is one of the most pressing issues of our time, many people are still skeptical of climate change and refuse to take action. Activists all over the world work tirelessly to remove this air of skepticism and raise awareness on the very real consequences of climate change and what will happen to our planet if we do not act NOW. There is an endless number of organizations that are working to combat climate change and make a difference. These organizations utilize a multitude of strategies in order to get people listening, but one of the most successful tools in our day and age is SOCIAL MEDIA!
The power of social media is infinite, and environmental organizations have recognized and harnessed this power for the greater good. The prevalence and use of social media is rising worldwide. While social media can not be the only tool used to entice social change, it can be used as a tool to keep people informed and help them inform others. The viral nature of social networks allow people to learn about campaigns to save the planet, and they naturally want to be a part of it so they spread the message. In this way, social media can be used as a foundation of education that can influence our actions and the steps we take to save the planet.
Every organization uses social media in its own way, so I decided to profile 4 different campaigns in order to showcase how climate communication, public awareness, and engagement are all tied together.

#1: Vogue‘s Climate Warriors CampaignScreen Shot 2015-12-06 at 6.31.20 PM

COP21, the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is running from November 30th, 2015-December 11th, 2015 in Paris, France. The objective of the conference is “to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world, to be signed in 2015, and implemented by 2020”. The key result is “to limit the global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius by 2100, as compared to before the industrial era”. In tandem with COP21, Vogue magazine created Climate Warriors, a campaign designed to raise awareness on climate change featuring 13 prominent women in the field.
Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 6.29.24 PMThe picture above is the homepage for the Climate Warriors campaign. You can see that it has minimal writing and uses powerful black and white portraits of the 13 women paving the way for climate change awareness. Rather than writing a traditional article on the subject, Vogue decided to make a photo story. When you scroll down on the page, it brings you to the profiles of the 13 women. Each profile includes a quote, image, and short blurb detailing the woman’s background and activism.
combine_imagesAs you can see, below each blurb are buttons to share the blurb with your followers on Facebook and Pinterest. The tool of sharing is one of the most utilized when spreading the word about climate change. All it takes is getting one person to click on your link to educate. It also gives you the option of sharing the entire story through Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and email.
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The campaign is also active on other social networks, like Facebook and Instagram. Although the campaign doesn’t have its own page separate from Vogue, it still is active on these platforms.

combine_images3Facebook is a great tool for this campaign because it allows people to comment on, like, and share the post with their friends. This spreads the word even farther. Similarly, the campaign was featured on Vogue‘s main Instagram page.
combine_images4In each Instagram post, Vogue uses hashtags to link people to more content. The two most popular hashtags right now for this movement are #COP21 and #climatechange. While they may seem simple, these hashtags are a great way to group together all the posts on the topic. The hashtags lead you to thousands of other posts on climate change and can inform the casual reader quickly.

Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 6.39.23 PMClimate Warriors is led by activist/model Cameron Russell, who is an advocate for climate change justice herself. With 25.5K followers on Twitter and 45.8K followers on Instagram, Cameron has the power to reach a large audience and spread the word/raise awareness.
Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 3.54.07 PMCameron is in attendance at COP21 and has been live tweeting the conference. She uses a combination of methods to intrigue her audience-from posting photos, live video, and retweeting other celebrities. Cameron Russell is a great ambassador because she can utilize her fame and famous friends to start a conversation on climate change. By getting Sara Sampaio, fellow model, to tweet about COP21, Cameron reaches a new audience. Sampaio has over 400K followers, so the message reaches more and more people.
Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 4.00.18 PMcombine_images5Cameron Russell used the same hashtags that Vogue magazine did in her tweets and Instagram posts. She takes it a step farther by posting about challenges people can partake in. This is a very important aspect of climate change communication because challenges force people to actually do something.
Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 4.08.25 PMAs Nicholas Jansen will explain later in our interview, there is a rising trend in cyber-activism, or “clicktivism”. Caryl M. Stern, President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, explains in her article for Huffington Post that clicktivism is problematic because “getting involved in a charity through, say, Facebook or Twitter merely creates an impression of support. Social media makes it all too easy to appear engaged in important issues without taking any real action, that all the “likes,” shares and retweets about this issue or that crisis simply do not yield results that count.” By having people participate in challenges, Cameron Russell is urging people to do more than just like and share a post about climate change.

Another example of celebrities using their cultural status to start conversation about climate change is found in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s open letter on Facebook. In the letter titled “I don’t give a **** if we agree about climate change”, Schwarzenegger poses three questions for his readers. Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 4.37.22 PM
His third and final question is very thought provoking and hits close to home. Arnold writes,

“I have a final question, and it will take some imagination.
There are two doors. Behind Door Number One is a completely sealed room, with a regular, gasoline-fueled car. Behind Door Number Two is an identical, completely sealed room, with an electric car. Both engines are running full blast.
I want you to pick a door to open, and enter the room and shut the door behind you. You have to stay in the room you choose for one hour. You cannot turn off the engine. You do not get a gas mask.
I’m guessing you chose the Door Number Two, with the electric car, right? Door number one is a fatal choice – who would ever want to breathe those fumes?
This is the choice the world is making right now.
To use one of the four-letter words all of you commenters love, I don’t give a damn if you believe in climate change. I couldn’t care less if you’re concerned about temperatures rising or melting glaciers. It doesn’t matter to me which of us is right about the science.
I just hope that you’ll join me in opening Door Number Two, to a smarter, cleaner, healthier, more profitable energy future.”

Schwarzenegger pleads with his audience to stop being skeptical of climate change and accept it as our reality . As of December 8th, the post has over 100K likes (including Mark Zuckerberg),70K shares, and 4,000 comments.

Screen Shot 2015-12-08 at 1.23.07 PMFor my interview portion of the project, I met with Nickolass Jansen, a senior here at the University of Michigan majoring in Program in the Environment (PitE). He has been passionate about the environment for years and is now the head of the Divest to Invest Campaign at UofM as well as in charge of organizing the Michigan Climate March that is taking place on December 12th. We had a conversation about how students on college campuses utilize social media to raise awareness about climate change.

Recap of my Nicholas Jansen Interview:

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#climate is an application available in the App Store that harnesses social media for social good. The application gathers the most impactful climate change actions from leading non-profits, informs you about actions that match your personal climate interests, and allows you to activate your followers on your climate actions.

Upon downloading it, #climate asks you to sign in with your Twitter or Facebook. It asks you what topics you are interested in, what regions you care about, and gives you a list of organizations to receive alerts from. The homepage of the app features a “Recommended For You” page where it connects you to different actions you can take that are tailored to your interests.IMG_2274Below are examples of actions that were recommended to me on my account. One of them is a Facebook challenge where you change your profile picture to support climate change awareness, much like people adding the French flag to their picture to support the shootings a few weeks ago. The second is a brief overview of COP21, a field guide to the Paris climate talks.


Each recommendation has the “Share” option, where you can broadcast the post to your followers on Facebook or Twitter.

#climate is one example of how smartphone technologies can be utilized to combat climate change. Applications like this one not only educate the user, but also allow the user to educate others through sharing. One of the biggest challenges in combating climate change is making people take action. #climate entices people to share the material with others and spread the word rather than just raising awareness.


Should Online Comment Sections Be Phased Out?

When I sat down to write this blog post, I thought it would be interesting to search Google first to see what other people think of online comment sections. Personally, I never pay attention to the comment section because I don’t really care what some random person in Idaho’s opinion is. On the other hand, there are millions of Internet users who read the comment section every time they visit a website. This became especially apparent to me after reading Suzanne LaBarre’s article about Popular Science and the comment section on their site.Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 5.31.04 PM
In the passage above, LaBarre explains the reasoning behind Popular Science‘s decision to remove comment sections from their articles, implemented in September 2013. She cites a University of Wisconsin study that found “uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself”. The results of this study highlight the very harmful effects reading comments can have on audiences and how it can make them interpret information differently than they would have previously.

After the Popular Science article, I wanted to see what others on the internet felt about comment sections. A simple Google search wielded many of the same results-comment sections need to disappear.

There was an article about online comments on every prominent news website out there, showing how big of an issue these comments have really become. The New Yorker article touched on a phenomenon known as online disinhibition effect, which basically states that “the moment you shed your identity the usual constraints on your behavior go, too”. Dealing with anonymity is one of the biggest problems with Internet use because people are not held responsible for their word. If you were in a classroom and disagreed with someone’s opinion, it would not be acceptable to stand up in the middle of the room and scream “You’re such an idiot, I am going to kill your entire family!”. If this is not acceptable, why should it be acceptable to post these types of messages on comment boards? Click on any YouTube video and you will find thousands of hurtful comments posted anonymously that probably wouldn’t have been posted had anonymity not been an option. Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 6.04.30 PM.pngAbove is an example of a comment section on the popular celebrity gossip website, Perez Hilton is infamous for writing hurtful remarks about celebrities, but the comment sections on his posts are even more alarming than his pseudo-journalism. While these people that commented above do have usernames, these usernames don’t necessarily lead you to them as a real person. Searching “Okra Panfry’s Bucket-O-Wings” most likely will not lead you back to the original commenter. Had these people been forced to link their comments to their Facebook accounts, maybe they would not have been so cruel.

While it would be nice to just get rid of anonymity and therefore get rid of the problem, it is not that simple. As you can see below, some people don’t care if their identity is linked to a rude comment. Screen Shot 2015-12-06 at 6.10.47 PM.png

After conducting some research on the topic and scouring comment sections all over the web, I’ve come to the conclusion that online comment sections do do more harm than good. Those in favor of online comment sections make the argument that getting rid of them equates to getting rid of free speech, but that is simply not true. The comments are only a space to practice free speech, so taking it away would not mean taking away free speech. Those who want to comment would just have to go elsewhere to add their input. As Suzanne LaBarre explained in her Popular Science articlecommenters have other options available to them, such as Twitter, Facebook, and email to voice their opinion.

Final Project Outline

Fighting desertification and how it can help combat climate change

Text, photo, email and audio interview, infographics


Interview Allan Savory, Jody Butterfield, Tre Cates (Savory Institute founders and employees), Brandon Barrett (Sustainability Researcher)

-What is desertification, why is it a problem, and what technologies can we use to fight it?

-How has social media reporting affected the way desertification/climate change is seen in the public eye? Has social media played a large role in people’s willingness to make changes?


Here is the founder of the Savory Institute, Allan Savory’s TED talk on desertification and how to reverse climate change.

Brendan Barret’s discussion on social media/climate change?

How do people define global warming on twitter?

How the world tweets


Environmentalist Profile

For my profile, I decided to interview three people who are all, in one way or another, interested in the connection between food and the environment. The three interviewees are Elana Goerge, a senior at Boston Univeristy, Malcolm Salovaraa, a junior at Dartmouth University, and Lauren Peters, the founder of The Glow Detox. I wanted to profile three different people in order to get different perspectives on how what we eat affects the environment and how we can lead sustainable lifestyles. Below you will find email exchanges with Elana, Malcolm, and Lauren in which they explain their interests and lifestyles.

Elana George

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Elana and friends harvesting calendula, comfrey, lavender, and plantain leaves to make salve

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Malcolm Salovaraa

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1. Can you tell me some basic information about yourself? Where do you go to school? What is your major? When did you become interested in the environment?

Name is malcolm salovaara, junior at dartmouth college, majoring in comparative literature. I’ve always liked being outdoors; I grew up on what one might call a leisure farm in a rural-suburban part of NJ and have a deep sense of connection to that place. have grown more passionate about regenerative agriculture based solutions to environmental problems in the past 4-5 years

2. Do you participate in any clubs at your university?

Not really, there is something called the dartmouth organic farm that I more or less run

3. Do you practice sustainability in your day to day life?

A difficult question. I am do all the typical things–recycle properly, turn off lights etc. I think the most significant way in which I’m an ‘environmentalist’ so to speak is in how I eat

4. What experience do you have in sustainable agriculture, if any? Does your farm practice sustainable agriculture?

I have a general knowledge of how to grow most fruits/vegetables/fungi and raise sheep/pigs/chickens and probably most other farm animals from the experience of growing up in a place where we sought to produce a lot of our own food. I have also worked on farms, some more sustainable or regenerative than others, where I’ve gained a good deal of experience. as far as my own farm, we are just turning the corner in the last year or two of becoming regenerative, which is to say that our systems build soil and sequester carbon, improving land as opposed to degrading it and reversing climate change. this turn around has mostly been in conjunction with my growing awareness of agricultural methods that enable us to do this

5. What do you think are some of the biggest environmental issues our world is facing today are?

Biggest environmental issues–obviously the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is a big one, but most people don’t realize that fossil fuel emissions has a twin culprit: desertification, which is the loss of carbon from soils to the atmosphere, typically caused by mismanaged livestock in areas with seasonal rainfall. generally I think that all the various environmental problems–biodiversity loss, deforestation, toxification like what is happening in brazil’s doce river right now–are all actually one social problem, which is an inability to connect the consequences of decisions with the decisions themselves, especially when they are separated by time and space. drastic though it may be, a locally-based lifestyle, one where everyone’s decisions have consequences that take place before them and have an effect, positive or negative, on their lives, is probably the best way to combat this problem. know where your stuff comes from, essentially. most of us haven’t the slightest idea, from the clothes we wear the to food we eat to the energy that powers our cars and lightbulbs, and this ignorance is what leads to a lot environmental damage I believe.

6. How can we help save the environment through farming?

There is no dispute that agriculture has been the cause of the most environmental damage in earth’s history, with the exception perhaps of large asteroids. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that many sociologists/anthropologists view the founding of agriculture as the start of civilization and man’s ‘separation’ from nature. I think that for agriculture to save the world, which it most definitely can, a paradigmatic shift has to take place in the minds of both farmers and consumers that farms should act in reunion with nature and in the image of nature. for instance, enormous herds of grazing animals, grasses, and pack hunting predators have evolved over millennia to create ecosystems that build soil exceptionally quickly. the predators kept the animals bunched and moving, not over grazing the grasses, and the grasses depended on the grazing animals to restart their growth cycles. in agriculture today, most grazing is done in the absence of predators, and so the system breaks down, causing erosion, degraded pasture, or worse, desertification. one need only reinstate that component of herded, moving animals to recreate and reap the ecosystem benefits of healthy and regenerative soil. this can be done with electric fencing or dogs or actual predators if you live in montana or somewhere. even more importantly, consumers have to be aware of all this, and should take back control of what they are eating and feeding to their families.

Lauren Peters

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In conducting these interviews I learned a lot about environmental problems facing our society today and what we can do to stop them. It is inspiring to see people of different ages and backgrounds all fighting for a common goal-to save our planet. It shows us that you do not need to be a climate change expert to do your part in combating global warming.

Key Takeaways:

  • Know where your food comes from and do your best to buy locally
  • Connect the consequences of decisions with the decisions themselves
  • Make modern farming more sustainable because we are destroying the soil 


Emerging Technologies to Combat Climate Change

IMG_1731Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time and one that needs to be dealt with NOW. One of the biggest reasons why people don’t see climate change as a big problem is because they are only person, and how much effect can one person really have on the planet? The answer is, a lot! If every person on the planet changed their mindset to “I can do something about this”, the world would be a much better place. If you want to make a difference but need some motivation to do so, then Joulebug is the perfect application for you.

Available in the App Store for free for iOS and Android devices, Joulebug is an application that makes saving the environment visible and fun. A lot of smartphone users are part of the younger generation and are constantly on the search for entertainment. Joulebug is a great application because it entertains while

The whole premise of the application is that every time you go green (GO BLUE ALWAYS!) , you earn pins, badges, and points.


You can play along with other users and join local communities, where you can partake in different challenges. It allows you to do so by using your location so make sure you give the app access to use your location.

The things you need to do to earn points vary, such as flipping off the light switches when you leave a room to refilling a reusable water bottle. Each time you complete one of these tasks, you “buzz” your activity and can include a caption, which also gets you more points and adds to the social aspect of the application.


It gives you the option of posting your buzz on Facebook and TwiIMG_1732tter, but doesn’t include other sharing options such as email or Whatsapp. Overall, I like the application because it makes saving the environment fun. Sometimes people need a little incentive, and thats ok. Joulebug does a good job of combining the social aspect of joining a community with being energy efficient in a way that I have not seen before.


If you want to read more about Joulebug, check out this article to read about how one town utilized the application to help track and reduce their carbon footprint!

Understanding Climate Change Through Infographics

Even though it is one of the most pressing issues of our time, a significant portion of the population does not acknowledge climate change and global warming. Some of these people are simply skeptics, but there is a good number of people who refute climate change simply because they do not understand it. Shazna Nessa states in Visual Literacy in the Age of Data (Source) that in today’s world, visualization can be defined as a “graphical representation of information”. She explains how we live in an increasingly visual world where more data is available than ever. News leaders have acknowledged this and have started to take data visualization seriously.

To better understand data visualizations and see what methods are effective and not effective, I will analyze a few infographics from Climate Reality Project meant to educate the public on climate change.

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The infographic demonstrates that land surface air temperatures have been rising since the 1850s. If someone were to read this information instead of see it, they may get confused. Viewing the data as a graph, you can clearly see that the temperature is rising.

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This interactive map on the left shows you 100% renewable energy vision. When you hover over a state, it shows you its individual future projected energy mix. I really liked this data visualization because it provides so much information in a condensed way. While there are people who would criticize this visual for taking a complicated topic and “dumbing it down”, I think this visual can really help people understand.

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Climate Change is a confusing topic to begin with, but an interactive map where you can see how many jobs are created, how many illnesses and mortalities are avoided, air pollution deaths avoided, and more crucial information is presented to you can help people care more about the topic and take it seriously.

A potential shortcoming of a data visualization is that it condenses too much information into too little space without really giving the audience the chance to unpack it. My favorite infographic on climate change shows how you can combat this problem-that infographics do not need to be jumbled with tons of information.

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This infographic shows how many authors rejected the notion of man-made global warming through 2012-2013. As you can see above, only ONE author rejected man-made global warming, which is represented by the tiny sliver of dark blue. If someone were to read this information as a sentence, they may not grasp how little that person’s opinion matters in the grander scale of things, where 9123 other authors ALL agreed that man-made global warming exists.


My experience with CBSN was overall very pleasant, informative, easy, and engaging.


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I was extremely impressed with the content on CBSN. When I first opened the site, the live stream automatically started playing, but the sidebar caught my eye. I saw a segment titled “Billionaire Up Close: Charles Koch” and decided to watch it. It was around 6 minutes long and featured an interview with Charles Koch at his home in Wichita. Koch Industries is the second largest private company in the country and it was very interesting to listen to Charles speak on his political viewpoints and business strategies. After watching the clip, I decided to continue the segment and watch the Part Two of the interview, another six minutes. I was impressed with how much information the reporter was able to include in the interview for it being so short.

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Another segment that caught my eye was titled “Inside North Korea”. The clip was only 3 minutes long, but it still gave me good insight into what life in North Korea was like. The segment was mostly voice over narration with a few scattered questions to locals. Even though interviews and first hand accounts are important to news stories, I liked how CBSN focused mainly on background information for this clip.

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Because it was placed at the top of the sidebar, I thought it was important to watch the “Top Stories This Hour: CBS Radio News Headlines. I did not enjoy this segment like I enjoyed the other segments, mostly because I was very confused about what I was listening to. As you can see above, you watch the radio host while also listening to the audio. I was not used to physically watching radio reporting and it was sort of unnerving.

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Although I have never watched Dr. Phil, I viewed the segment titled, “TV Doctor: Dr. Phil on Dr. Phil. I enjoyed this 8-minute clip because I gained a sense of what Dr. Phil’s show was like and also who he is as a person. I was glad it wasn’t longer because he is ridiculous and I don’t think I could have continued listening to him for much longer.


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I think the format of CBSN is perfect for what they are going for. The “Live” section at the bottom plays on mute simultaneously with whatever segment you decide to watch, so if there is breaking news, you will still see it. This addition to the site is very convenient and necessary for it to succeed as a news platform. When you are watching the news on a television, there is usually a “breaking news” alert at the bottom of the screen when something big happens, or sometimes the reporter even stops to mention it. If CBSN didn’t have this live/breaking news feature, people may be less likely to use it because they want to stay updated 24/7.

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The sidebar is a great feature because it allows you to quickly jump from one segment to the next. If something starts to bore you, you can easily choose another story without even leaving the page. I also liked how each story had a title and subtitle because it gave context to the story.

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The share button was conveniently placed right next to the clip so that you can easily and quickly share with friends if you wanted. I don’t know if it was an issue with my own Facebook or if the share link wasn’t working, but I got an error message when I tried to share something to my Facebook. I think they could have had more share options, such as email and other social network platforms.

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Overall, I think CBSN beats NPR One by a long shot. Although I did like the simplicity of the NPROne app, there was just so much more to do on CBSN. They succeeded by having a lot of content without having it seem jumbled, as it sort of did on NPROne. I may be biased in that I like watching video more than solely listening to audio because I find it more engaging. What I did think NPR One does a better job at is allowing you to flag stories you found interesting, but neither had a “liked” page.


I would 100% recommend CBSN to others because I believe it has something for every consumer. It doesn’t matter if you are extremely right wing or extremely left wing, there will always be appealing material for everyone.