geog 12 final paper

geog 12 final paper - Christine Terada GEOG 12 Rendering...

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Christine Terada GEOG 12 Rendering Environmental Perceptions of Natural Disasters through Media Introduction The relationship between humans and nature has been widely discussed and debated throughout American history. This is because our national identity is one that requires land. Ranging from Thoreau to myself, Americans like to take walks in the woods, camp, and hike, in order to “get back to nature”--to experience freedom and independence through our removal from civilization. According to William Cronon, “Seen as the bold landscape of frontier heroism, it (wilderness) is the place of youth and childhood, into which men escape by abandoning their pasts and entering a world of freedom where the constraints of civilization fade into memory.” (Cronon, 1996: 79). This signifies our dependence on nature as separate from civilization. Our cultural identity is one that requires a relationship with the land, yet it is our perceived separation from it that gives us freedom. Our relationship has thus continued to be one in which we benefit from the wild country because it allows us to experience what it means to be a “true American” (Cronon, 1996). Thinking this relationship as “natural” is anything but true, however, because it is constantly being produced and reproduced through social relations (Cloke, et al, 1996). Our concept of nature, and our relation to it, is a social construction. Hence, we construct a nature that we enjoy for its usefulness, ideals, mythology and sense of identity. In our conceptualizing of wilderness, we have domesticated it into our own ideals. At the same time, however, nature cannot be completely molded by the values we impose on it. While 1
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it provides for us, it also takes away. Natural disasters destroy and undermine the “peaceful relationship” and structure we have created. Disasters thus present an extraordinary opportunity to examine how society responds when social structures fall apart (Ploughman, 1997). One such response is the media, which plays an imperative role in the way society perceives and manages the surrounding environment. Media is especially important in times of natural disaster, when perceived structures are broken down and people don’t know what to do or how to react. Research indicates that disaster news influences public perceptions and concerns (Salwen, 1995). Therefore, simple exposure to news media has the effect of producing various attitudinal effects, while news content and presentation have the power to at least initially manipulate its audience (Price, et al, 1993). Our culture thus relies on social constructions to establish a relationship with nature, and to also respond and guide us when this relationship is interrupted--when nature is not under our control.
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This note was uploaded on 04/25/2008 for the course GEOG 012 taught by Professor Rotating during the Winter '07 term at Dartmouth.

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geog 12 final paper - Christine Terada GEOG 12 Rendering...

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