December 26th, 2010 by Michael Ricciardi
Remember AIDS awareness ads like the one above? Newspaper articles and PSAs were appearing with increasing frequency in newspapers and magazines in the early 1990’s. But that trend has been dramatically reversed, according to recent findings.
In a survey of newspaper (broadsheet) content conducted by the Trends in Sustainability (TIS) Project, coverage of AIDS-related issues has declined by more than two thirds since the early 1990’s. Since 2008, AIDS coverage has seen a 70% decline. Concurrently, media coverage of environmental and climate change issues has increased, such that today, it has become the defining news issue of our times.
The TIS project is an on-going research endeavor by a consortium of British, Irish, and French universities. In this most recent study, the panel looked at some 70 million articles in over 400,000 newspapers from 41 developed nations. The biggest changes (declines and increases) were seen in U.S. and French newspapers.*
But even as climate-related news is increasing, this topic has itself seen a change in content coverage, According to the study, topics such as acid rain and the hole in the ozone layers (once the defining enviro issues), have been supplanted by articles on climate change, which have increased on average ten-fold (note: this climate change category includes animal extinction and biodiversity-related topics).
While this is certainly good news for environmental causes, some of the researchers are concerned that on-going socio-economic issues — such as disease prevention in the developing world — will lose the public’s attention, and its funding priority, along with the loss of coverage (note: in general, more coverage means more attention, which means more funding of research, as when AIDS was the defining news story of its day).
Author note: Ultimately, said climate issues will certainly impact upon said socio-economic issues, as drought and water shortages become normative, or, put another way, the issues of disease prevention/treatment in the developing world will converge with these same regions’ climate change issues as millions are displaced by floods, droughts, and consequent ethnic conflicts.
For more, check out the original news post on World Science.
For more on trends in sustainability, visit TIS
Top Photo: NIH
* This may be due in part to the fact that U.S. and French bio-medicine made huge strides in AIDS-related science and therapeutics. Part of this advancement in knowledge was the development of the AIDS “cocktail” (with protease inhibitors), making AIDS in the the U.S and Western Europe a “treatable disease” — no longer a guaranteed death sentence. Further, governmental spending and private foundation charitable work regarding AIDS — especially in Africa and the developing world — increased dramatically during the 2 decade period, with the greatest funding seen since 2001. Private foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation dedicate billions annually to preventing AIDS in Africa while president George W. Bush increased U.S. spending in Africa on AIDS-related missions to record levels. All of this may have created a sense of security and “crisis averted” mentality in the public consciousness, allowing it to move on to other more sensational or “critical” issues.
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