This article considers potential impacts the study of language, including ecolinguistics, can have on important real-world issues, and how linguists and others can involve themselves in addressing these issues for a sustainable future. The article is divided into two parts. The first part provides an illustrative study in which computer tools were utilized to investigate media reporting. The study examined the relative coverage of issues of basic human needs (food, clean water, and sanitation), which are part of the focus of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and of the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, in four major newspapers from Malaysia, Singapore, the UK and the US. Data were collected between November 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic was in its early days in terms of worldwide attention. During that time period, the pandemic received far more coverage in those newspapers than did the other issues, even though basic human needs greatly outweighed the COVID-19 pandemic as to deaths and other forms of suffering at the time of data collection, not to mention the toll on human life in the many years before the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. Reasons for this severe discrepancy were explored with insights from professionals working in the media and related sectors. The skewed distribution of media coverage, we argue, reflects a crisis of responsibility and values. The second part of the article serves to highlight how those of us in language studies can make a contribution to the wider discussion about, among other important concerns, the role and responsibility of media in shaping the public’s views and actions on issues that are at the heart of sustainable development, and how we can be more socially engaged. We conclude by arguing that ecolinguists have much to contribute to the sustainability of the world, which ultimately requires a respect for the entire ecological community.