When I was studying journalism in Brazil, for two years I participated in a research project where I had to analyze the way that the main representatives of Brazilian press media portrayed global warming and other environmental topics to its audience. It was the first contact that I had with environmental journalism during the course, and it was when I became interested about environmental issues. During the project, one of the conclusions that we reached was that the Brazilian media is still shy about talking about the environment.
Usually, the news that we collected and analyzed did not escape from the conventional “save the polar bears”, “the Arctic is melting” and “save the Amazon rainforest”. During the analysis of the quantitative data, we realized that most part of the environmental issues published by the media in Brazil was actually reproduced from international news agencies, such as BBC and Associated Press. The Brazilian media was either forgetting about our own problems or looking at them through foreign eyes.
When I arrived at Chatham University, I was really surprised at what I saw: a university that is worried about the environment in almost every small action, absorbing it as a way of life and the university transmits this way of life in all of its classes. Chatham has 100% of its energy provided by a mix of renewable sources; it encourages its students to separate their garbage for recycling in their on-campus housing and organizes innumerous events to encourage the community to adopt sustainable practices. Talking to a professor that guided me in the research project I undertook in Brazil, and to many other communication students and researchers of the country in congresses of the area, we always reached the conclusion that Brazilian universities still have to incorporate the environmental issues in their lives.
The communication area is no different. Although Brazil has one of the biggest biodiversity sources of the world with some of its cities expanding rapidly as a consequence of the economic development, the environmental issues took a little while to be seen and debated in the country. A major event that opened the doors for these discussions was the Eco 92 Conference, that took place in the country (in Rio de Janeiro city), in the year 1992. The conference was one of the events that gave impetus to the environmental discussion not only within Brazil but in the whole world.
The discussion about environmental issues is being implemented little by little in the Brazilian routine. The great majority of the universities of Brazil are not prepared to enable communication students to act within the scientific and environmental journalism. There are few specialists in the area and this is reflected in the superficial news published by media, which usually decontextualizes the environment of its economic and social scenarios. We still have a lot to advance in environmental journalism in Brazil, and it has to begin with the environmental education that has been taught (or should be taught) in our homes and schools, in order to form critically-thinking citizens who are prepared to explore these ideas as much as possible.