Posts Tagged media

The Stories I’d Like to Hear

Posted by on Wednesday, 22 April, 2009

This morning, I was listening to the podcast version of “Can Coal be Earth-Friendly?” from NOW on PBS (link). This is usually a great program, providing well-rounded coverage of the issues they cover. But I’ve noticed a certain hesitance when it comes to environmental issues. At its root, I think this is the most significant contribution conservatives have made to the issue of global warming: to make anyone in the media wince when it becomes unavoidable to talk about the environment. For anyone familiar with the issues surrounding clean coal, NOW’s wince was a full-body convulsion.

Their whole show centered around the question of whether it was technically possible to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions from the stack of a power plant, as if this would settle the question of whether clean coal was possible. Their only acknowledgement of the whole segment of our population who think clean coal is an oxymoron was one quote from a representative of the Big Coal side of the debate. True to form, he explained with an analogy from his past, about how his mother had had a different idea from him of what constituted a clean bedroom. Yeah, that’s the same. Environmentalists are obviously just a little…anal…when it comes to how dusty they like their air. They’re just making a mountain out of a molehill.

As if this weren’t enough, NOW then spent several minutes retracing the well-covered ground about how many of these folks don’t believe in human-induced global warming. Gasp. Guess what? Some people think we never went to the moon. Crazy people exist. Some of them get help, some don’t. It’s tragic that so many of them are in power, but this is a syndrome that wealthy people seem predisposed to. Get over it.

In spite of all this, I’m not really too concerned about what they said. I’m really disappointed that we can’t seem to have an honest, all-cards-on-the-table discussion about things like clean coal. We see, in a single article, discussion the technical challenges alongside the health problems in communities where coal is mined, alongside the fact that we’re blowing up mountains and poisoning water tables for this stuff, alongside concerns about the uninspected retention dams that collapse and kill people. We can never take a full accounting and understand that capturing and transporting CO2 from coal-burning power plants takes a lot of energy, which means we’ll have to accelerate all of the above in order to maintain the same electrical output. This isn’t about whether you believe in global warming (like God, it believes in you!), it’s about having an honest discussion about where we stand and where we can reasonably go from here. Without the marketing distractions from people who stand to make a lot of money, or want to protect existing investments.

The same thing applies to smart electricity grids, wind and solar power, battery technology and hybrid vehicles, biofuels, local vs. industrial food…just about anything that isn’t supported by a large existing marketing machine. We cannot seem to have an honest, comprehensive discussion in the mainstream media about these things. And this is probably the single most important thing when it comes to choosing a wise direction for our future. Without honest discussion, we cannot make decisions that are good for us and our children.

So, this is what I want. This is my wish for Earth Day 2009, if you like.

Media, stop wincing, and stop mistaking equal representation for honest discussion. Just give us the information. All of it. Remember the reason you got into this business, and do your job.

Happy Earth Day, everyone.