Sunday, June 14, 2009

New Environmental News

Oftentimes the news isn’t ‘new’, though it might seem so because we look at it anew. Or, some refinement to an occurring story comes along, and so it becomes ‘new’—again. Or, something new actually does occur. This is especially sizzling stuff to the media because they love new news. Old news is not only bad, it’s non-profitable. Old news only gets reported when it is repackage, as something new—like some rumored tidbit coming out about Marylyn Monroe. That’s too bad for our environment.

Take this week’s Rochester-area environmental news, for example. White-nose syndrome, a year-old bat disease that possibly sprung from a bat cave near Albany that the press hasn’t paid much attention to has gotten some new press because we are looking at it anew: it’s spreading like wild-fire out West. A nasty fish disease, Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS), which also might have sprung up around these parts (though it arrived here via Europe from ships’ ballast tanks), was new here in 2006. But now, even though it’s ripping through the Great Lakes, it isn’t all that new any more. It hasn’t done anything new lately. It’s just doing the same old thing--devastating fish populations in the Great Lakes. So, you’ll have to wait until something fresh comes up to hear more about it.

Ok, here’s something really new, a refinement of a previously existing news story: the swine flu is now a full fledged pandemic. That gets headlines, though it has struggled awhile for that placement because even though this flu is spreading human-to-human, it isn’t yet as lethal as the 19-18-19 flu. The pandemic is dangerously losing its press appeal. It’s got to start doing something new or the media will drop it altogether.

Here’s a repackaged news story this week, the second coming of the Digital Signal change. This story was new back in February, until it was learned thousands were not ready for those rerun “I Love Lucy” episodes, or whatever they’re doing on network media nowadays. So June 12th became the new deadline. And that makes news, but the media forgot the news that the old TVs replaced by our new TVs will begin filling up our landfills. That will only become news when new toxins created by this techno-avalanche get leached into our ground water and soil creating a new problem.

And, being a busy week for environmental stuff, there was more new stuff: new transportation stimulus monies coming to our area. Several new news stories on how our area will be affected by Global Warming—an increase poison ivy, shifting Great Lakes fish populations, and (if you can believe it) slower wind speeds across our area. (Seems that if the poles are not as cold as they used to be because of global warming, there won’t be as much loss in air pressure between continents.) That will mean less wind for wind turbines—that’s new and adds fire to the loony wind turbine debate going on in the media.) ACT Rochedser, a new web site which includes old environment indicators for our local environment, newly arrived this week. Moreover, oil drillers fracturing their way through the Marcellus Oil Shale among other areas may have to reveal the chemicals they use to force oil to the surface. So if these chemicals end up in our water, we’ll know who to blame. Now, that sort of disclosure would be very, very new—maybe even some exciting court cases and wild allegations that could generate weeks of news.

That’s the way it is, folks. New news drives our media, drives media competition, and that drives us to want more new news—a wonderful profit model for the media. Sadly this paradigm, this way that our media operates both to get our attention and support itself financially, has absolutely nothing to do with staying ahead of environmental issues before they become problems. Our present media construct that is failing is a mirage, a delusion of our times that we can package information about our environment to the pubic the way we report on politicians shooting themselves in the foot. Because, by the time environmental news stories become ‘new’ and thus get our attention, they’ve often wreak such havoc that we cannot recover from them. By the time pollutions, warmings, extinctions, and diseases percolate up through our present media and make news, they’ve long since metastasized into a permanent disease we have to live with—which can get very old.

No comments: