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Analysis: Does a Local Social Media Campaign Have An Impact Around Climate Change Policies?

Amaury Abreu

Trainer, PA- Community members at Marcus Hock Neighborhood area have been using social media to present complains about Monroe Refinery. According to their Facebook page the Refinery has been operating in high priority violation “for the last 7 years”. Individuals have used social media to present complains about local companies whom they believe are affecting their communities. The question is, does social media has an impact in regards to complains around climate violations?

Community members typically raise concerns in their personal social media channels where their family and friends in the community can then see the complains and react to them and potentially take action against the organizations they feel are having a direct impact in their community’s climate.

Campaigns That Work Org an organization that did a study on different climate change campaigns and their effectiveness provided strategies for those who are interested in developing campaigns. They examined 65 journalistic articles and surveys that focused on understanding what works when it comes to changing people’s behavior around this topic.

“Individual consumers need three things to be in place before they are to change a particular behavior” (Reducing Plastic Pollution: Campaigns That Work)- The following images are specific to plastic consumption but Campaigns That Work provide principles they found to be effective based on their research findings when it comes to campaigns that focus towards a transition to a green future.

In the case of the community members at Marcus Hock their Facebook page they have taken these steps. For example they provide information about how the refinery is violating environmental regulations “The Monroe Refinery has operated in “high priority violation” of the Clean Air Act for at least the last seven years and as a result of DEP’s last inspection, it issued violations for the “failure to meet the Department’s continuous emission monitoring requirements.” The same violations were also issued in April of this year.”

They also provided statistics (without providing the source) of how a large group of black people live near the are where the factory is located seeking to bring light to other issues that are connected to environmental injustice “Sixty-seven percent of residents living within 1 mile of the Monroe Refinery are people of color and 54% of residents living within a mile of the refinery live below the federal poverty line. This is clearly an environmental justice community in dire need of increased environmental protection.”

Last but not least they provide a call to action by encouraging readers of the Facebook page to file a petition to get environmental justice “Please follow the link below to demand environmental justice in Trainer, PA and surrounding areas by September 19th! https://cleanaircouncil.salsalabs.org/monro…/index.html…

“While some would say that raising awareness is usually the best and first step to create change, others claim that it is not enough “It’s easy to assume that sharing information in an engaging way is enough to motivate people to adopt new behaviors. However, research suggests that this is not the case.” (Christiano, Ann, and Annie Neimand. “Stop Raising Awareness Already.” Stanford Social Innovation Review 15, no. 2 (2017): 34–41. https://doi.org/10.48558/7MA6-J918.).

In Central Pennsylvania, Community members have shared videos about protests that have been documented to raise complains around climate change & injustice.

Others share events:

“To move the needle on the issues we care about the most, research and experience both show that we must define actionable and achievable calls to action.” (Christiano, Ann, and Annie Neimand. “Stop Raising Awareness Already.” Stanford Social Innovation Review 15, no. 2 (2017): 34–41. https://doi.org/10.48558/7MA6-J918.). Harrisburg, which is the epicenter of political activist around climate change, is the traditional place where social media climate activist have been connecting around this topic, the question that then arises is, how do we change behavior in Central Pennsylvania beyond Harrisburg?

Maybe the answer lies beyond social media and it’s alleged effectiveness.

“However, a US study raises concern with such positive findings, as here the internet was not found to have any positive effect on political interest, efficacy, and knowledge (Richey & Zhu, 2015). While not exclusively concerned with climate change, the study found that general internet use was not beneficial for efficacy beliefs. Similar to our study, the paper analysis general amounts of internet use, rather than more specific individual practices, making it particularly relevant for our hypothesis building as we are working with similarly general data.” ( Social media and perceived climate change efficacy: A European comparison. Leonie Tuitjer, Peter Dirksmeier)

If we look at the research being done around social media campaigns and their effectiveness we must look at the political landscape and what really drives change in a policy level.

Central Pennsylvanians like communities in other part of the world are driven by their local political forces that then affect their region and state policies overall. If social media is not the solution to policy change, then what could it be?

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