Why the name “Indications?”

There is nothing specifically green-sounding or environmental about the word “indications.” However it is an important communication word and one thing I like about it are the multiple ways it can be read in this context.

One meaning of “indication” is as a sign of something. And certainly environmental communication is about signs and their significance vis-à-vis Nature and environmental affairs. Those of us working in this field are all over the importance of signs.

An indication can also be like a symptom. Doctors (MDs, but I guess also PhDs) look for indications of diseases. Similarly, many of us who study environmental communication look critically at environmental discourses for indications of problematic cultural meanings and values that contribute to environmental degradation. And doctors also use the word to mean a suggested course of action or treatment. So indications in the environmental communication context might also refer to how those of us who practice environmental communication seek to point the way.

Indications are also readings of physical conditions (such as temperature) by graduated instruments. This kind of quantitative measurement has a lot of relevance to environmental science and environmental social science, including quantitatively-oriented environmental communication scholars. And let’s not forget the fierce debates we have seen about the interpretation of scientific data invoked in environmental debates.

Indications are also those acts of communication whereby people point things out and make them known. The practice of environmental communication is centrally concerned with pointing out and making known both where we have gone wrong in relation to the planet and how we might do better.

The OED also lists a specific use of the word indications in the context of mining as “something which indicates the presence of valuable ore, oil, etc.” Well, there’s some irony in that, but let’s hope that the contributors to this blog are able to uncover some nuggets of valuable environmental communication.

Finally, I also liked the inconclusiveness and incompleteness of the word. Indications are not definitive or absolute or meaningful in and of themselves. They are like clues, hints or suggestions.

(With help from the Oxford English Dictionary)

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About Mark S. Meisner

Executive Director of the International Environmental Communication Association (IECA). I also research, teach, write about, and speak on environmental and sustainability communication, media, culture, and policy. Facts are usually facts, but opinions and sense of humour are always my own.
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