Antilla Kellems: Book Review of Media and the Ecological Crisis (Public Understanding of Science):

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Book Review: Richard Maxwell, Jon Raundalen and Nina Lager Vestberg (eds), Media and the Ecological Crisis

Public Understanding of Science November 2016 25(8): 1023, doi:10.1177/0963662516670501

A diverse, well informed group of interdisciplinarians collaborate with academic editors based in Norway and the USA to explore an existential question: will we continue with unsound practices relating to communications technology and media production which run counter to balancing human culture with the natural world? Alternatively, are we capable of transforming global information and communication paradigms into more sustainable models?

In critiquing various aspects of this query, within such areas as media history, social movements, labor, design, art, and communication studies, contributors investigate where and how a multitude of commercial forces wield great power in our digitally connected world. We learn just how wasteful, to quality of life and ecosystems, electronic social interconnections can be as hyper-consumption of energy and materials has become the new “norm” in this plexus of global communication systems.

Marketing campaigns encourage acceptance of each new “tech-step forward” in digital devices, or even slight aesthetic improvement, as meaningful progress while the environmental impact of consumer electronics is severely under-reported by the press. While cloud computing may offer reductions in some greenhouse gas emissions, the phenomenon of digital “infoflation” -- copious levels of un-informative, shallow, instantaneous content filling up our collective consciousness – equates to the expansion of data server centers drawing significant levels of energy from fossil fuels. As personal self-exposure grows exponentially via social media, so does the level of e-waste; developing regions suffer the worst impacts in poisoned work and natural environments.

While many new techno-fixes might reduce our carbon footprint, the question remains: could the digital revolution facilitate overstepping our planetary boundaries? Media and the Ecological Crisis argues for a more thoughtful media frontier including improved consumer education. By exposing various material and physical links between our networked society, climate change, and the wider ecological crisis of our planet, we can hope to raise ecological ethos and inspire an “electronic environmentalism.” While some chapters are somewhat esoteric, the bulk of this book would be easily comprehended by and highly instructive to college and university students as well as to a much wider audience.

Reviewed by: Liisa Antilla Kellems, Independent Geographer & Blogger, USA whose work is found at