Environmental Interest 2013
This article represents one of the first manuscripts to use internet query data to investigate public interest. In order to conduct this study, I had to communicate extensively and directly with Google to determine how the system worked and whether it was even valid. The surprising outcome of this study was that we discovered that interest in the environment was declining. This was a serious problem because environmental issues such as biodiversity losses and climate change are at the forefront of global problems that must be dealt with. This article was prominently reviewed by the United Nations Global Environmental Outlook as evidence that the Aiche criteria for sustainable development were failing miserably in their goal to improve the public's view of the environment. The manuscript was challenged by several authors, one of which submitted a comment on this paper. Unfortunately, that author had not been in communication with Google and after reviewing their website concluded erroneously the same things I had previously thought before their guidance was provided. I responded to this comment and demonstrated clearly why the results in the first paper we not only valid, but based on solid ground. This is considered by many as a seminal article in Conservation Informatics, and it was groundbreaking in methodology that had never been applied in this manner before.
This article followed on the 2013 one in Biodiversity and Conservation. In that previous article, we determined that sustainability had a much different pattern of interest than other queried terms. We asked if this was because of term usage changes, or if it might be something else. So, each investigator queried a subset of 338 terms that Google Trends had identified as with sufficient search volume to conduct analyses. This was the most extensive study of internet query terms to date and not only answered why sustainability was behaving differently, but revealed that such extensive lists of terms are not necessary to reveal public interest in most situations.
Laudato Si' 2019
Laudato Si' was widely expected to have a major impact on environmental policy around the globe. A torrent of articles in many journals crossing religion and environment were examining it. But, all ended with the same idea, that we would just have to wait to see how much impact it really had. My investigation directly tested if public interest was changing in response to this movement. I examined every country in the world for which Google provided data, and the outcomes were surprising. Responses were dynamic and strong around the world, but countries varied for all kinds of reasons ranging from GDP, proportion of Catholics, to degree of internet access. In the end, it was pretty obvious that the Catholic Church had shaken things up and that generally interest in the environment was recovering and growing after only two years. Numerous responses could be directly tied to this document, from the Extinction Rebellion movement to a number of others. This manuscript was a massive undertaking, represents the most extensive and detailed analysis of public interest to date, and it was the first to utilize a before and after experiment to examine query data. It received news coverage by Mongabay.