Comparative Media Analysis (GEO 101: Environmental Geography) Instructor: Don Alexander Term: Spring 2013 Date due: Friday, April 5th Background One of the themes of this course is the presentation of alternative viewpoints about issues affecting the environment. An important dimension to this debate is the reporting of issues in the media, and in informational materials prepared by international organizations such as nongovernment organizations (NGOs). In this assignment you are required to analyze a set of media articles – or information pieces – and to apply some of the thinking you have been exposed to in the course so far, as well as standard 'critical thinking' (as described in the box below). By comparing the arguments and formats that these media pieces bring to bear on the problem, you can uncover faulty arguments, unsubstantiated positions and clearly biased information. What is required Read two articles or briefs/ reports or speeches on a controversial issue of environment or resource management: for example, one from an industry or government perspective and one from an NGO. These are just suggestions; they don’t have to be from industry, government or NGOs. The important thing is that the two pieces should take opposing perspectives – for instance, statements by the Harper government on the benefits of the Northern Gateway pipeline (which argues that the environment will be protected) and the views of environmental groups that the dangers to the environment are large and irreversible. You are encouraged to not confine your reading to these two pieces; other readings may help you to decide which side of an issue is more credible. Please use such sources to inform your judgement. If possible, attach the two main readings to your assignment or give a web site. Reference where appropriate, using APA or Chicago (parenthetical style) – see http://libguides.viu.ca/citing. Answer the following questions in approximately 8-10 typed, double-spaced pages; remember that double-sided printing or re-use of scrap paper already printed on one side is encouraged. If you prefer, you may answer the questions together in an essay format. Each question is weighted equally. ● In a paragraph or two, briefly describe the positions taken in each article using only the information provided. Write this as a short summary for an audience unfamiliar with the two positions. ● Using what you have learned in class and from the textbook, do you feel the pieces are biased or incomplete in any way? Identify where arguments may be slanted or where important information is not included. ● Based on the information presented, what do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of each perspective? What is your perspective now that you have looked at both sides? ● If you feel a reader needs more information to make an informed judgment about the issue in question, what kinds of material would be useful and what would this look like? Addressing all the above points is essential to getting a good grade. For your proposal (January 30th), please indicate your issue, two initial sources, and a page outline. Some Help Completing this assignment requires critical thinking about what you read. The box below contains a few tips to help you in developing this type of thinking. Note these suggestions are to guide you only. Steps in Critical Thinking -Identify and evaluate premises and conclusions in an argument. -Acknowledge and clarify uncertainties, vagueness, equivocation and contradictions. -Distinguish between facts and values (can assertions be 'tested'?). -Recognize and interpret assumptions (do these reflect bias?). -Distinguish the reliability or unreliability of a source (how expert are the sources?). -Recognize and understand conceptual frameworks (where is the author coming from?). (Source: based on work by Karen Warren) Symptoms of Doubtful Assertions and Weak Arguments in Media Articles -The main point is unclear. -Evidence provided to support the argument is inadequate. -Analogies used are illogical. -Opinion and fact are intermingled. -Uses celebrity to endorse argument. -Vague references are used in place of specific references, e.g. "Most dentists agree that …" -Author is unaware of own biases. -Author is affiliated with or seeks to profit from a stakeholder in the argument. -Graphs are used to distort the appearance of results. -Evidence from an experiment fails to mention the 'control' group. -Attributes stereotypical characteristics to members of a particular group. -Scientific information may contain misconceptions or be misleading. -A percentage or fraction is given without the total sample size, e.g. "9 out of 10 dentists …" -Small sample size is used to represent a precise representation. -Single explanations or conclusions are presented with no mention of other possibilities. (Source: compiled by Marcie Dumais and Tamara Hansen) Remember: You are marked on both content (as specified above) and style, so strive for a consistent writing style and organize your work in a clear way. The following are some possible topics (or think up your own): ·aboriginal rights vs. conservation; ·animal testing; ·aquaculture and farmed salmon; ·are people willing to make radical voluntary changes? ·banning cosmetic pesticide use; ·banning plastic bags; ·battery vs. free-range chickens; ·(how to handle conflict between) bears and humans; ·(the strengths and weakness of) biofuels as an alternative to petroleum; ·biological pest controls; ·bottled water (for and against); ·bulk water exports; ·carbon offsets; ·carbon taxes/ quotas/ trading; ·(usefulness of) ecological footprint or carrying capacity concepts; ·cell phones; ·(transport of) citrus fruits and/or kiwis; ·(fair trade vs. multinational) coffee; ·community watersheds vs. logging; ·computers and related waste; ·controlled burning and logging of beetle-ravaged forests; ·(pros and cons of) DDT; ·factory vs. organic farming; ·”food miles”; · (dangers of) “fracking”; ·GMOs and hunger; ·(focusing on) habitat vs. species; ·(pros and cons of) hunting; ·hydrogen as fuel; incineration vs. landfilling of solid waste; ·(the environmental) Kuznets curve (is the environment getting better or worse?); ·climate agreements and the economy; ·(are there) limits to growth? ·local food security vs. free market 'efficiency'; ·Northern Gateway pipeline; ·offshore and/or polar oil exploration; ·100-mile diet; ·peak oil; ·population vs. consumption; ·(does it make sense to shoot) predators preying on marmots?; ·run of the river projects in BC; ·sharkfin soup debate; ·sports vs. commercial vs. Native fishery; ·(provincial government policy on) spotted owls; ·(arguments for and against) urban sprawl; ·“sustainable fossil fuels”; ·tar sands development; ·voluntary measures vs. consumer pressure vs. government regulation; ·(ethics of keeping) whales and dolphins in captivity.