The present report deals with the question of which changes should be made in the current environmental communication model so that information becomes a real tool to help us understand environmental problems, to orient decision-making towards their solution, and to promote sustainability. The transition phase in the move towards a new communication model is described as a process that moves information from passivity to activity, changes its content, and thus requires developing a new and different representation of knowledge that facilitates its understanding.

Through the study and analysis of the current characteristics of supply and demand of environmental information in Europe, it is possible to draw conclusions on the shortcomings of the traditional communication model, in terms of its effectiveness to induce cultural change towards sustainability. While the written media are perceived as the most important suppliers of environmental information, they are also viewed as the usual means for the transmission of the less credible data. Social perceptions of the mass media, together with their limitations (such as lack of space, diversity and specialisation, or time constrictions) determine the need for reviewing the traditional communication model.

As a result, an alternative model of environmental information exchange in Europe is being put forward. The new model is based on interactivity, participation, plurality of sources and opinions, different representations of reality, and elimination of space, time and variability constrictions. This model can be characterised by three basic aspects, namely:

  • use of the new technological supports;
  • a new and different representation of knowledge; and
  • a review of the topics put forward for society’s consumption.

This model is already being tested at various levels and some of the findings are described as case studies in this report. However, in order to promote further and deeper analysis of the model’s potential and implications, it is necessary to initiate and evaluate some new strategies. Chief among these are the conception, design and creation of environmental communication research projects, initiatives or centres specifically designed to deal with the development of new and innovative environmental communication systems to provide information of real value.

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