Engaging communities in environmental communication

  • Usha Sundar Harris Macquarie University
Keywords: collaboration, environmental communication, environmental movements, networks, Pacific, participation, participatory media, sharing


This article makes a case for alternative communication models as a means of strengthening networks both for dialogue and social action in environmental communication. It first charts the emergence of the environmental movement in the Pacific region as a consequence of 50 years of nuclear testing. This is followed by a discussion of contemporary environmental concerns facing Pacific communities and the networks of solidarity that have emerged. Participatory media provides an important platform for local communities through which they can share knowledge, create awareness and provide their own perspectives on environmental issues. 


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

Usha Sundar Harris, Macquarie University

Dr Usha Sundar Harris is a faculty member in the Department of Media Music Communication and Cultural Studies at Macquarie University. She teaches and conducts research in environmental communication and communication for social change. Dr Harris has trained Pacific Island communities in Fiji, Vanuatu, Kiribati and New Zealand in the use of media and mobile technologies to raise awareness about environmental issues. Her forthcoming book titled Participatory Media in Environmental Communication is due to be published in 2018 by Routledge.




Boykoff, M. T., & Boykoff, J. M. (2007). Climate change and journalistic norms: A case-study of US mass-media coverage. Geoforum, 38(6), 1190-1204.

Brulle, R. J. (2010). From environmental campaigns to advancing the public dialog: Environmental communication for civic engagement. Environmental Communication, 4(1), 82-98. doi:10.1080/17524030903522397

Carson, R. (1962). Silent spring. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Castells, M. (2009). Communication Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Christian, D. (2011). Maps of time: An introduction to big history (2nd ed.).
Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Cox, R. (2013). Environmental communication and the public sphere (3rd ed.) Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Dalton, R. J., Recchia, S., & Rohrschneider, R. (2003). The environmental movement and the modes of political action. Comparative Political Studies, 36(7), 743-771. doi:10.1177/0010414003255108.

Dutta, M. J. (2012). Voices of resistance: Communication and social change. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press e-Books.

Flitton, D. (2016, August 21). Rio Tinto’s billion-dollar mess: ‘unprincipled, shameful and evil’. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved March 17, 2017, from www.smh.com.au/world/billiondollar-mess-a-major-disaster-the-people-do-not-deserve-to-have-20160817-gquzli.html

Flor, A. G. (2004). Environmental communication: Principles, approaches and strategies of communication applied to environmental management. Quezon City, Philippines: University of Philippines Open University.

Faris, S., Lipscombe, S., Whitehead, S., & Wilson, D. (2014). From the ground up— Changing the conversation about climate change, Policy briefing #11. BBC Media Action. Retrieved from www.bbc.co.uk/mediaaction/publications-and-resources/policy/briefings/policy-climate-change

Galindo Cáceres, L. J. (2006). ‘Historical notes on possible communicology: A hypothetical configuration and trajectory'. In Gumucio-Dagron, A. & Tufte, T. (Eds.), Communication for social change anthology: Historical and contemporary readings, New Jersey, NJ: Communication for Social Change Consortium (CFSC).

Harper, C. (2012). Environment and society: Human perspectives on environmental issues. Boston, MS: Prentice Hall.

Harris, U. (2014). Communicating climate change in the Pacific using a bottom-up approach, Pacific Journalism Review, 20(2), 77-95. doi:10.24135/pjr.v20i2.167

Harris, U. (2008). Unpacking ‘Islandness’. In E. Papoutsaki, & U.S. Harris (Eds.). South Pacific islands communication: Singapore: Asian Media Information and Communication Centre.

Hau‘ofa, E. (1994). Our sea of islands. The Contemporary Pacific, 6(1), 147–161

Haynes, K., & Tanner , T. M. (2015). Empowering young people and
strengthening resilience: Youth-centred participatory video as a tool for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction. Children's Geographies, 13(3), 357-371. doi:10.1080/14733285.2013.848599

Jain, S. (1984). Women and people’s ecological movement: A case study of
women’s role in the Chipko movement in Uttar Pradesh. Economic and Political Weekly, 19(41), 1788-1794.

Janif, S. Z., Nunn, P. D., Geraghty, P., Aalbersberg, W., Thomas, F. R. and Camailakeba, M. (2016). Value of traditional oral narratives in building climate-change resilience: Insights from rural communities in Fiji. Ecology and Society, 21(2), 7. Doi:10.5751/ ES-08100-210207

Johnson, S. (2012). UNEP—The first 40 years: New York NY: United Nations Environment Programme.

Kheerajit, C., & Flor, A. G. (2013). Participatory development communication
for natural resources management in Ratchaburi province, Thailand. Procedia—Social and Behavioral Sciences, 103, 703–709. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.10.390

Kirsch, S. (2014). Mining capitalism: The relationship between corporations and their critics. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Kirsch, S. (2007). Indigenous movements and the risks of counterglobalization: Tracking the campaign against Papua New Guinea’s Ok Tedi mine. American Ethnologist, 34(2), 303–321. doi:10.1525/ae.2007.34.2.303

Lakoff, G. (2010). Why it matters how we frame the environment, Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture, 4(1), 70-81, doi: 10.1080/17524030903529749

Maldonado, J. K., Colombi, B., & Pandya, R. (Eds.). (2013). Climate change and indigenous peoples in the United States: Impacts, experiences and actions. New York, NY: Springer.

Mataki, M., Koshy, K., & Nair, V. (2008). Top–down, bottom–up: Mainstreaming adaptation in Pacific island townships. In J. A. Neil Leary, V. Barros, I. Burton & J. Kulkarni (Eds.), Climate change and adaptation (pp. 265-278). London, UK: Earthscan.

Milstein, T. (2009). Environmental communication theories. In Littlejohn, S. and Foss, K. (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Communication Theory (pp. 345-350). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. doi: 10.4135/9781412959384.n130

Nelson, G. (n.d.). How the first earth day came about. Retrieved on January 19, 2016, from http://earthday.envirolink.org/history.html

Phillips, K. (2015). Bougainville at a crossroads: independence and the mine. Retrieved March 16, 2017, from www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/rearvision/bougainville-at-a-crossroads/6514544

Plush, T. (2009). Video and voice: How participatory video can support marginalized groups in their efforts to adapt to a changing climate. Synthesis paper for Masters in Participation, Power and Social Change. Institute of Development Studies.

Ravuvu, A. (1983). The Fijian way of life. Suva: Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific.

Robie, D. (2014). Don’t spoil my beautiful face : Media, mayhem and human rights in the Pacific. Auckland, New Zealand: Little Island Press.

Smith, R. H. (1997). The nuclear free and independent Pacific movement after Muroroa. London, UK: Tauris Academic Studies.

Schulman, S. (2016). The $100bn gold mine and the West Papuans who say
they are counting the cost. The Guardian. Retrieved March 17, 2017, from www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/nov/02/100-bn-dollar-gold-mine-west-papuans-say-they-are-counting-the-cost-indonesia

White, S. A. (Ed.) (2003). Participatory video images that transform and empower, New Delhi, India: Sage Publications.

Online resources
Pacific Island Climate Action Network. (2017). Retrieved March 17, 2017 from https://pacificclimateactionnetwork.wordpress.com/

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme Strategic Plan 2017–2026. (2017). Retrieved March 15, 2017, from www.sprep.org/attachments/Publications/Corporate_Documents/strategic-plan-2017-2026.pdf

The Great Smog of 1952. (2015). Retrieved on March 17, 2017, from www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/learn-about-the-weather/weather-phenomena/case-studies/great-smog

The History of Earth Day. (2017). Retrieved January 17, 2016, from www.earthday.org/about/the-history-of-earth-day/

Troubled waters: How mine waste dumping is poisoning our oceans, rivers,
and lake. (2012). Retrieved March 17, 2017 from www.earthworksaction.org/files/publications/Troubled-Waters_FINAL.pdf
How to Cite
Harris, U. S. (2017). Engaging communities in environmental communication. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 23(1), 65-79. https://doi.org/10.24135/pjr.v23i1.211