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Season of Creation reflection: Dr Ciara Murphy

What we talk about when we talk about “our common home”

We are living through a climate and biodiversity emergency; how we talk about it matters. Framing of the climate and environmental discourse by media outlets shape the wider public’s opinions, while the absence of consistent coverage signals a lack of importance and reduces the general awareness of the crisis.

The ecological emergency we are currently living though effects, in one form or another, every aspect of our lives. Yet, there is a dearth of integral ecological reporting in mainstream media which investigates and highlights these interconnections. The consequences of climate breakdown and the biodiversity crisis stretch from food production to extreme weather and compelled migration, however linkages between these issues are mainly ignored. The food we eat, where we live, how we heat our homes, and how we travel contribute to the current ecological crisis. But these issues are consistently framed as a question of individual choice obscuring the more nuanced discussion of infrastructure- availability and the interplay between individual change with community and system change.

The islands of Britain and Ireland have, in particular, endured decades of insufficient media coverage of the climate and biodiversity crisis. Where there is media coverage of this emergency, it is predominately framed in tabloid, ideological terms, emphasising the personalities or parties involved, rather than the extent of the challenge or the opportunities that climate and environmental action presents. It is much more common to see these challenges presented as bald economic costs, as against opportunities for profound societal transformation.

It isn’t enough to increase the coverage of the ecological crisis, but we must also change how we report it. A proactive media discussion which focuses on the benefits of solutions instead of cost or the perceived consequences of action, could change the general perception from an obligation that will reduce our standard of living to a positive change in our lives Pope Francis has rightly called us to integral ecology. That requires a far more fertile media ecology.

 Dr Ciara Murphy is environmental policy officer at the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice in Dublin. The Centre undertakes social analysis, theological reflection and action in relation to issues of social justice, including housing and homelessness, penal policy, asylum and migration, and international development. She is a contributor to Messenger Magazine.