August 21, 2005
Media and Ecotourism
Someone asked me for my ideas about how Ecotourism can use media to promote itself. My answer was, in effect, that environmentalism must see the corporate media as its natural enemy. My reply follows:
I'll tell you my essential take on it quickly (because my day is madly tight) : my essential feeling about your question is that our popular culture in the U.S. is formed in large measure by the big corporate media conglomerates, and they very consciously massage the public mind to favor a corporate agenda, which is anti-environment, among other things.
There are writings on this going back to the early 20th century. It's not just my personal conspiracy theory. The major corporations have consciously pursued a campaign to mold public opinion to work in their interests. It's called advertising and public relations, but it used to be called propaganda.
The corporate agenda is essentially anti-democratic, anti-free market and anti-public property. The environment is legally public property. Dating back to Roman law it is the commons, and it belongs to all the people. Corporations want to privatize everything so that they can take freely whatever they can make money on and then dump their waste products back into the public sector for the rest of us to clean up out of our tax payments.
So when it comes to media, it is not a level playing field for environmental issues. The corporate agenda has made such spectacular progress in taking over the United States largely because of the great sophistication and effectiveness of the media -- or propaganda -- system.
And most Americans have no idea that they are being brainwashed, which makes it especially hard to guard against it or to counter it.
What it means specifically in the case of your very worthy cause, is that you have to find ways to get around the natural anti-environmental bias of the corporate media. The key is the bottom line. I can tell you are onto this by the way you framed your questions. Corporations don't "believe" in anything but making money. Though they are essentially anti-environment in their very existence, the one value that supercedes all others is maximizing profit. So the way to get them on your side is to show how it can be profitable.
Wal-Mart's share price is tanking now, and many think it has something to do with the "bad PR" the company has been getting, that is, the truth about them is getting out. That is something no corporation wants. So that is a key to proposing environmental initiatives to them.
A startup specialist I recently talked to told me he had just worked with a company that was looking for funding for a company that was going to use chicken dung for fertilizer. It would solve the waste disposal and pollution problems posed by the massive production of chicken dung, and also supply an organic, nontoxic fertilizer. He said it was the easiest job for securing funding that he ever did because a lot of very rich people are very concerned about the environment and the slippery slope toward environmental destruction that we are undoubtely on. Those are the people you want to get through to in your efforts to re-brand ecotourism. I think there is great potential.