The first rule of talking about nitrogen…

August 6, 2014

Who cares about nitrogen pollution? Chances are, you do. You just don’t know it yet.

Nitrogen as an element is absolutely necessary to life, but as with so many essentials, you can have too much of a good thing. Excess nitrogen – from tailpipes, smokestacks and most seriously from manures and chemical fertilizers – can poison our waters with toxic algae (like the recent outbreak that hit Toledo’s drinking water supply) and fish-killing dead zones, pollute our air with smog and acid rain, contaminate our drinking water and speed up global warming. (Learn more from these fact sheets.)

Yeah, but still… nitrogen? Yawn.

As with many wonky topics, audiences won’t care about nitrogen unless we connect it to places, values and concerns they already care about. But making the communications leap from “nitrogen” to “Whatya mean I can’t swim in my favorite lake this summer?” takes practice. That’s why Resource Media put together tips designed specifically for the researchers who are helping to expand our understanding of how too much nitrogen can hurt us and our environment. The Nitrogen in the News tipsheet offers simple ideas for translating the science into terms and topics that non-scientists will understand and appreciate.

And that’s important, because this is a problem that’s very solvable. In 2013, a remarkable group of agronomists, environmental scientists, extension agents, crop advisors, economists, farmers and other agricultural experts developed The Kansas City Consensus on Nitrogen Use Efficiency 2013, offering recommendations for promoting better management of nitrogen fertilizers and manures to reduce the unintended environmental impacts of nitrogen pollution.

From wonky nitrogen talk into actionable solutions – that’s a story we can get behind.

Download the nitrogen messaging tipsheet here.


Cat Lazaroff