UK Media Breakdown: Air Pollution In The Last 12 Months
Concern for air pollution, and environmental safety in general, has seen a large uptick in social presence over recent years. In the last year, air pollution ranged from 14k-44k mentions per month in social media and garnered significant attention in online articles. Although this movement has resulted in greater awareness, the sentiment of posts is mostly negative in nature.
A study on air pollution suggested a link existed with psychotic episodes in UK teens, further emphasising that society is currently experiencing a global crisis and that public health is at risk if this trend continues. On average, London makes up 33% of all UK mentions on air pollution. This raises the question: Do those in higher risk areas care more about air pollution?
A BBC article from April 2019 recognised the efforts being made in London to combat toxic air. Establishing a new Ultra Low Emission Zone aims to reduce road transport emissions by 45% in two years. Furthermore, a common consensus between Londoners online is that not enough is being done to improve the air quality and counter pollution.
The situation is becoming more desperate in the eyes of many. The number of informed and invested members of the public is on the rise. And widely disruptive protests continue to expand in frequency and scale. A recent large scale protest by Extinction Rebellion, focusing on climate change, managed to cripple parts of central Manchester. The public presence on social media is significantly supportive for these protests, going so far as to seek out protests in their area. However, there is also ambivalence and annoyance displayed by those who were directly inconvenienced.
Companies that are considered the UK’s largest contributers to pollution are also shifting their priorities toward climate change. Some have launched campaigns aimed at promoting awareness and change, albeit with varying degrees of success.
This categorisation map (from media insights tool Audiense) showcases the various groups within a sample of 22,181 Twitter users mentioning ‘air pollution’ in the past 12 months. The socialist and endorsement group makes up 50.2% of this online audience. And the politicised nature of these online user groups reflects the contentiousness of the topic within policy. Although, there are also niche interest groups that are focussed on eco-friendly transportation, wildlife conservation and infrastructure designed to lower emissions.
The socialist and endorsement group makes up 50.2% of this online audience. And the politicised nature of these online user groups reflects the contentiousness of the topic within policy. Although there are also niche interest groups that are focussed on eco-friendly transportation, wildlife conservation and infrastructure designed to lower emissions.
The average passive observer has minimal participation amongst the subject of air pollution. When they do engage with the topic it tends to be of joking or dismissive nature. An example of this are the posts surrounding environmental advocate, Greta Thunberg. Which make jokes about the story or make light of her cause. Although the posts also received significant backlash from other users.
Influenced and informed users made up a large amount of the sample, with the majority of users within politically charged groups making up this demographic. And while, they do post occasionally about climate change it isn’t their primary focus; taking a backseat to other discussions such as politics.
Digital activists represent the next step, with their online content focusing on environmental concern. Those most likely to fall in this category are from the nature and wildlife, and green groups.
Air pollution and the core idea of sustainability have experienced a rapid growth in awareness during recent years, having a massive impact on our everyday and digital lives. We are seeing people become more and more educated in the area and the developments within the topic, especially with the exponential growth of social media streamlining the process of sharing this information. Specific sub-groups have also become identifiable through social media; understanding what they post and the content they consume is critical to influencing these users, and in surveying the digital landscape surrounding sustainability in general.
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