Hey Global Warming, Cold Enough For You? The Weakness in Climate Change Coverage

gohomearcticyouredrunk__630Mother Jones has published an interesting article on the extreme cold, wind, and snow being served up by the Polar Vortex™.  Spoiler alert: experts suggest that Climate Change may be the culprit.  They use a humourous, if comically dated, graphic to illustrate their point (further proof that science writers might be a tad behind the times when it comes to internet memes).  It’s gotten plenty of hits. Mostly because it’s cute.  And mostly because it is the type of fluff that spreads like kittens on the internetz.

I take special note of articles on Global Warming.  After all, almost 15 years ago I began a job with Peterborough Green-Up, doing public outreach on environmental affairs.  I wrote countless special interest columns on the topic, and filmed a metric crapload of television segments as well — all of which were buried way behind the headline stories.  It was a tough slog.  Often with little reward.  But it left me dedicated to following the issue.

I am sad to note that, since then — since I began and since I left — I have seen almost zero in the way of serious commitment to fighting the problem.  Not from our Government.  Not from our business community.  And, sadly, not from our society in general.*  Climate Change is an issue that is left heating on the back burner.  With a frog in the pot.

With this in mind, and with due respect to Mother Jones Magazine, I really don’t think that the Arctic is the one in need of sobering up.

You really have to wonder when we’ll begin to see Global Warming as the serious threat it is.

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Created by Small Print.

Created by Small Print.

When pressed about the 24/7 coverage of the Rob Ford story — even when there is nothing new to report — journalists (and eager readers) are quick to respond that the sins of the Mayor are in the public interest.  I don’t think it a stretch to suggest that many of the media were and are attempting to produce some form of change — some measure of difference — at City Hall.  They are definitely eager to use the scandals to sell papers.  Heck, if Rob Ford were to deliver a bloodshot-eye media scrum today, front pages would be screaming out speculation.  If he farted in the presence of a Star reporter, there would probably be furtive sniffs (and possible reports on the smelly outcomes).  Would any of this speak to the serious issues at hand?  Would it shed new light on his alleged racism, homophobia, or gang relationships?  Probably not.  Would it be news?  Definitely not.  Would it be salacious?  Absolutely.

It’s funny.  Ask a journalist why Climate Change gets so little coverage, and your answer is usually that there is nothing new to say.  “What’s the point of writing ‘Climate Change is real, and we’re still doing nothing about it?'” asked one newspaper friend of mine.

Listen, I’m not saying that we don’t report on Rob Ford.  Or that the public doesn’t have a right to the juicy when it comes to news.  But here’s the deal:  We know that Rob Ford has done/does do drugs.  We know that he has a record of drunk driving.  We know that he tells lies.  This has all been proven.  None of it is news any longer.  You are free to extrapolate this argument to any other lingering scandals, political or otherwise.  Harper, the Senate, Mylie Cyrus…

If we expect political or societal change to come from the reporting of misdeeds, then isn’t it only right to expect this to be the case on longer term (and potentially much, much more serious) issues?  Yes, there is no change in the climate change story.  But that in itself makes it news.  Major news.  And scary news.

Every time a summit comes up and we stall it, it is news.  Every time a report is shelved, it is news.  Every time a scientist is muzzled, it is news.  News that affects the entire planet.

Here’s a notion.  Why not put the world’s most serious issue on the front page every day?  Why not dedicate large font headlines to what our government is not doing.  What our businesses sector is not doing.  What we are not doing.  Spice them up with articles on what our kids and grandkids are going to inherit.  Have a picture of little Johnny or little Suzie and a report on the drought conditions they are going to face.  The air quality.  The price of food.  The price of water.  The price of insurance.  The price of life…

And keep them there.  Keep these stories on the front page.

Sure, we can continue to party with Rob Ford prostitution coke-fest stories (or whatever we’re on to by then) as co-leads.  You don’t have to make Climate Change your only header.  But it might be interesting to see what kind of debate springs from serious commitment to coverage of the issue.  You know, in a way that people will actually see and be forced to notice.

Maybe people would seek accountability from their leaders.  Perhaps they’d start to seek accountability from themselves.

If nothing else, we would be sure that journalism is doing it’s job: bringing us the stories that are going to have the biggest effect on us today, tomorrow, and for the unforeseeable future.

I know…   I know…  Ludicrous, right?

But one can dare to dream.

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While on the subject, the following New Yorker headline may be of interest: Polar Vortex Causes Hundreds of Injuries as People Making Snide Remarks About Climate Change Are Punched in Face.*

Now, I’m not really one for fisticuffs, but… well… in this case….

Just try me.

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* No, really.  Automobile use continues to grow, energy consumption continues to grow, shopping habits have not really changed in the past decade…  Heck, how often do you see it discussed over family dinner tables? Sure, there are many out there who are making some serious changes, but…  overall?

** Well, at least the Polar Vortex has gotten Climate Change a few headlines.  If only in the “puff” department.

 

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