Can social media save our environment?

Climate Change and President Obama’s Action Plan


As climate change becomes a more and more pressing issue in our society, the White House, particularly President Barack Obama, chooses to dedicate more of its time and space to raise awareness and to educate Americans about the world’s fragile environment. In June 2014, “the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the Clean Power Plan – the first-ever carbon pollution standards for existing power plants that will protect the health of our children and put our nation on the path toward a 30 percent reduction in carbon pollution from the power sector by 2030.” In addition, in November 2014, “in a historic joint announcement with China, President Obama laid out an ambitious but achievable target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in the range of 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, while China announced its intent to peak carbon emissions around 2030 and to double its share of zero-carbon energy to 20 percent.” This announcement marked a historic step for climate change action in addition to a historic step for the United State’s relationship with China. The U.S. and China have the largest economies, energy consumption, and carbon emissions therefore this partnership “demonstrates leadership on an issue that affects the entire world.”

Along with an outline of President Obama’s accomplishments in 2014 and his plan for future climate change, the White House website provides numerous infographics to easily access information regarding the environment. Ranging from the cost of extreme weather to carbon pollution and from clean energy to greenhouse gasses, the infographics focus on the importance of not just launching efforts in America, but leading international efforts to address global climate change. Furthermore, each of the five infographics has ‘share on Facebook’ and ‘share on Twitter’ buttons. Throughout his presidency, Obama has stressed the importance of informing the American people. His efforts in regard to climate change are no different. All of this information is easily accessible and easily communicated. Here, social media provides a forum to share the United State’s plan with its citizens and with the global community.

Greenpeace, Nestlé in battle over Kit Kat viral

Paul Armstrong, CNN


To some, there is nothing better than biting into a Kit Kat bar and hearing that iconic Kit Kat crunch. But what if instead of biting into a chocolate covered wafer, one bit into an orangutan finger? Greenpeace, the largest direct-action environmental organization in the world, did just that. “The viral campaign, which parodies a Kit Kat television commercial, was intended by Greenpeace to highlight how Nestlé buys palm oil -- a key ingredient in many of its products -- produced from the destroyed rainforest homes of the last orangutans in Indonesia.” This sixty-second clip ends with a parody of the famous Kit Kat slogan, “Have a break? Give orangutans a break.” Just 24-hours after the video was posted on YouTube, Nestlé requested the removal of the campaign for certain copyright infringements. This, in the eyes of Greenpeace, was a ploy to avoid the real problem at hand – Nestlé is destroying rainforests. Greenpeace accused Nestlé “of using palm oil from Indonesia's largest palm oil producer, Sinar Mas, which it says is clearing orangutan habitats and breaking Indonesian law in order to expand production.” Additionally, Greenpeace claimed “it has evidence Sinar Mas is not only clearing forests but destroying carbon-rich peatlands” which “releases vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, helping to make Indonesia the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.”

Fortunately for Greenpeace, the video was reposted soon after its removal. In addition, Greenpeace posted the campaign on and “used Twitter to spread the word about the attempted censorship.” Greenpeace “added that many Web users had re-posted the clip to YouTube and other destinations on the Internet themselves, resulting in over 300,000 views.” Since this article was published, the Greenpeace video has almost 1 million views, and the clip is regularly tweeted, even after five years. Using the power of social media, Greenpeace spread the word that Nestlé perpetuates the destruction of the environment and worked to promote change to save the rainforest and the orangutans. This article predates any response from Nestlé in regards to change, but, as seen in another source summary, the video was incredibly effective.

Sweet Success for Kit Kat Campaign: you asked, Nestlé has answered



As mentioned in the source summary above, Greenpeace launched an online attack on Nestlé involving a viral parody of a Kit Kat commercial. Before the campaign, Nestlé bought palm oil from companies, in particular Sinar Mas, which were destroying the rainforest habitats of the last orangutans in Indonesia. Just two months after the release of the video, Nestlé “finally announced a break for the orangutan - as well as Indonesian rainforests and peatlands - by committing to stop using products that come from rainforest destruction.” Nestlé’s new policy commits them “to identify and exclude companies from its supply chain that own or manage 'high risk plantations or farms linked to deforestation.”

Greenpeace attributes the success of the campaign to the power of social media and “social-media savvy activists.” From the hundreds of thousands who e-mailed Nestlé, called them, or spread the campaign message on social media profiles to comments on Nestlé’s Facebook page and changing profile pictures to orangutans, rainforest, or the campaign Kit Kat ‘Killer’ logo, the crusade against Nestlé saw great success in the world of social media. After just two months, the video had over 1.5 million views and was shared on every major social media platform. Here, “the power of social media combined dramatically with direct actions to deliver the message directly to Nestlé.” Social media played a key role in preserving the homes of the last orangutans by sparking awareness, action, and compassion. Without social media, the orangutans could be gone forever.

United Nations Environment Program


Many recognize the United Nations as an international organization comprised of 193 countries whose mission is to better global society in whatever shape that may take. The United Nations Environment Program, UNEP, “is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment.” Their goal is to share and to educate the world in regards to saving our environment and to make information and a clean life accessible to all. 2015, the UNEP constructed an agenda where they “integrated the three dimensions of sustainable development: how to achieve a balanced, ambitious and inclusive framework?” Their plans from here revolve around accessibility and knowledge. Without these, the goals of the UNEP could never been achieved.

The UNEP utilizes social media and the Internet to share their message and raise awareness about climate change and other environmental issues around the world. Their website streams 24/7 updates of the globe’s environmental health along with a calendar of events and links to their Facebook page and Twitter account. The UNEP Twitter has almost 400 thousand followers and 150 thousand likes on Facebook. Both pages provide quantitative data regarding the state of the environment in addition to ways one can get involved. Their Twitter is constantly updated, and the Facebook page consistently posts. Social media plays a key role in this government program’s ability to share information and get people involved. The power of social media lies not only in one’s ability to share their own information, but one’s ability to retrieve other’s information and consequently start a conversation that could eventually save the environment.

Can social media save the planet?

BBC News


In 2012, the Rio+Social conference on sustainability in Brazil turned its focus to the power of social media in today’s global community. According to Pete Cashmore, CEO of Mashable and Rio+Social Organizer, social media can “inspire those with ideas for action.” Facebook and Twitter provide a forum for people to share thoughts and ideas, which can spark a fire for change. Cashmore argues that when “governments come together to try to come to some kind of agreement about what they are going to do about global climate change and sustainability… nothing really comes from it.” When social media outlets are thrown into the mix, people can start to take action. These outlets allow the conversation to be global, which can better inform groups like the United Nations of society’s needs. Even the United Nations Secretary General agrees that “people can connect like never before.” The ease of communication and discussion can therefore help inform policies by allowing the voice of the people to be heard.

Social media facilitates discussion, and discussion facilitates change. At Rio+Social, change hopes to come in the form of global climate reform. The power of social media demonstrates the importance of saving the environment to government officials and policy makers. Social media allows for a dialogue between millions, which is what it takes to save the world’s environment.

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