Are green blogs failing to convince?

March 10, 2009 by
Filed under: Education Matters 

Commenting on the possiblity of creating a new .eco domain, Al Gore said this week:

We fully support Dot Eco LLC in its efforts to secure the .eco top level domain through the ICANN application process and look forward to working with Dot Eco LLC to promote .eco. This is a truly exciting opportunity for the environmental movement and for the internet as a whole.

Exciting? Really? Really?

Like Matthias Merkel Hess, who occasionally wrings his hands with regret at calling his admirable site, Eco Art Blog, I inwardly cringe at the word. Here at Arts & Ecology we are always pleased that we never fell for the single-syllable option, keeping the subtler, more powerful term “ecology”, with its implicit sense of connectedness. Why having it as a suffix creates anything more than an internet ghetto, I don’t understand.

Anyway, to the point. Meaghan O’Neill, the woman behind Treehugger.com and Planetgreen.com is perkily bullish about the future of green blogs in general, writing in an article in last week’s Guardian. In an age in which conventional media are shedding staff as fast as they can, she believes that blogs can and should take over the role of reporting on environmental issues:

Anecdotally speaking, the audience for green content appears to still be growing, even as budgets for green media outlets are cut.

If you look at what she says with web2.0 spectacles on, things look rosy. Green bloggers have formed a community which educates and reinvigorates itself. As Abi Silvester of hippyshopper.com says in a comment on O’Neill’s article:

One element of blogging that’s particularly relevant here is that as bloggers we treat the issues as a basis for dialogue rather than presenting them as facts in the way that mainstream media tends to do… I do understand why some are uncomfortable with the idea of unqualified bloggers spurious scientific “facts”on the environment or any other topic, but so is any blogger worth his or her salt. In my experience, the blogs that gain credibility and respect are those that don’t set themselves up as “experts” but as interested parties that want to get involved and explore solutions creatively. There’s really no better place to do that than online at the moment.

Which is why green blogs are failing to change minds. Web2.0 is a great thing. But it’s not an end in itself. .

O’Neill says her faith that growing green audiences is “anecdotal”. Silvester too is a fan of the anectotal approach: “In my experience, the blogs that gain crediblity are those that don’t set themselves up as ‘experts’,” she says .

We don’t really have to prove ourselves right because we have the moral highground. A community that talks high-mindedly is faced by an opposing community of sceptics which is, frankly, making all the running. In fact, as the barbed comments below O’Neill’s article show, climate deniers retain a much more powerful voice on the internet given their relatively small numbers, and green bloggers don’t appear to be able to do anything to dent that. Last month, to the horror of green bloggers everywhere, the climate-sceptic blog wattsupwiththat.com was nominated Best Science Blog of 2008 by the Best Blog Awards, to the delight of denier-trolls everhwhere.

The thing is, if blogs are going to replace the mainstream media, they must start assuming their authority. And that means finding more ways to do old-fashioned research and reporting – which the old mainstream media regarded as its central role. Moral highground is cheap. A reputation for accuracy is much harder to come by. That’s happening, but still so slowly.

The web is, as we are so often told, only 5,000 days old.


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