Trying to negotiate the world as your sight gets worse does not make life easier. Rather, it becomes more difficult because you often miss critical warning signs. That’s worth keeping in mind as this week’s news illuminates a further decline in the public’s ability to ‘see’ the world around them.
Story #1. Supreme Court Voids Campaign Spending Curbs - BusinessWeek.com- msnbc.com “A divided court strikes down decades-old restrictions on corporate campaign spending, 5-4, reversing two of its precedents and freeing companies to advertise” Although there has always been a disproportionate advantage for large corporations to self-servingly frame issues before public via the media, lately it has become more blatant and dire. Relying on corporations, who own most mainstream media, to report on environmental malfeasance is putting the fox in the henhouse.
Story #2. Media Executives Plan Online Service to Charge for Content - NYTimes.com If the NYT, one of the last major media institutions that have the capability to do major environmental investigations, decides to charge online readers for its content, and many media follow suit, fewer people will read critical environmental reporting. It means that only a minority will be able to afford reading an important series like Toxic Waters - Series - The New York Times.
Slowly, we are losing our collective ability to monitor the health of our environment and it means we are probably going to make some very bad decisions going forward. If we had the inclination and resources we could do independent objective reporting and discover the ramifications of everything we dumped into our air, land, and water. It’s obvious from the direction mainstream media is going that we are not so inclined. Rather our tendency is to rush forward with every new earth-altering idea that comes to mind and believe everything will turnout OK. That’s delusional.
We can get a more honest view of how we treat our environment by using a wider perspective, that of time. Then it’s clear that we tend not to consider the environment as we live and plan for the future. Three books I suggest that will give you a glimpse of our region before great human changes took place: “A Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations” by Clive Ponting; “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” by Charles C. Mann; and “Paradise Found - Nature in America at the Time of Discovery” by Steve Nicholls. 500 years ago our continent was rich with life, now it’s poor in biodiversity and collapsing in slow motion.
Putting up barriers between the masses and our media by making it more difficult and expensive for them to get accurate and in-depth environmental information will lead to disaster. But should reporting be publically funded, as John Nichols & Robert W. McChesney argue in How to Save Journalism? I don’t know. All I know is: Absolutely no environmental problem goes away by blinding the public to them.