On Wednesday, December 4th, I attended a U.S. EPA, State and Local Climate and Energy Program webcast “Gaining Support and Attracting Participation through Communication.” For over an hour I watched/listened to several environmental communications experts from all levels instruct community leaders on how to inform the public on Climate Change. Much of the material concerned itself with some psychological insights as to why many folks aren’t interested in Climate Change and practical ways to engage various groups, listening to their concerns, and explaining why this issue has to be addressed. One tactic a local expert suggested was making sure the group you spoke to got lots of coffee. Folks get sleepy listening to lectures on climate, I guess.
Despite the fact that most folks already know about Climate Change, that it is human caused and threatens many dire consequences, it’s the dickens to get folks to get interested in the most important crisis of our time, maybe of all time. No less authority than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) still feels compelled to modycoddle the public into taking actions that will prevent some avoidable catastrophes. Inexplicably for our federal environmental authority, the EPA seems quite ready to write off a sizable portion of our population whose stance against Climate Change makes them particularly difficult to reach. At the state level, our New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) tries to engage New Yorkers under the Climate Smart Communities program, a voluntary program that only a few communities in our region have signed on to.
At the local Rochester level you’re not going to get much information at all about the consequences of Climate Change if you don’t tear yourself away from mainstream media. They don’t just under-report or miss-report on Climate Change, they mostly don’t address it at all. This oversight cannot be explained as a disinterest in far-off events, like why the Warsaw Climate Change Conference last month was avoided locally, because the media had no such qualms about re-experiencing the JFK assassination. Thus they cannot use the excuse that warming is too remote (in time and distance) to worry about because our media is clearly OK with ‘remote’. And of course Climate Change is not remote to Rochester; it’s here. The Likely Changes coming to our region because of Climate Change are mentioned readily in most climate studies, so the failure to report on warming cannot be a lack of information or relevance. Maybe it’s because Climate Change doesn’t bleed, it doesn’t wear a pretty dress, it doesn’t get wasted and take illegal drugs. So it must be a great big bore to our local media.
But don’t despair, it’s not hopeless. While local mainstream media struggles for ad dollars and your attention with attention-getting puffery, you have other choices. You only have to turn your computer’s pointing device to some other local media sources to get news and information on the local effects of Climate Change. A wonderful resource I’ve come to depend on lately is the monthly newsletter out of Hobart and William Smith College: Happenings: the monthly newsletter of the Finger Lakes Institute:
The FLI Happenings newsletter is a monthly publication with FLI staff and guest authors contributing articles relating to environmental topics and issues of concern for the Finger Lakes region. Themed issues have included such topics as alternative energy, green jobs, environmental education, climate change, Marcellus Shale, environmental stewardship, green infrastructure and more. To offer a regional perspective, each month the Finger Lakes Regional Watershed Alliance contributes an article featuring their individual lake members and accomplishments. Happenings: the monthly newsletter of the Finger Lakes Institute
Not only can you get some connect-the-dots info on Climate Change in our region, but the difficult-to-find info on warming on the Finger Lakes. For some reason most climate studies, let alone local media, haven’t focused on our Finger Lakes. (This is odd, for if you have access to a map ((our media obviously doesn’t)) you can readily see that Rochester has several of the Finger Lakes all about it: Canadice Lake, Hemlock Lake, Honeoye Lake, Canandaigua Lake, and Conesus Lake.) For instance this month, here are several important stories you should check out: “Climate History From The Depths of Seneca Lake,” “Developing Resiliency For Great Lakes Communities”, and “Communities’ Stakes Are High As Climate Changes”. The articles are expert, local, and crucial to our understanding some of the issues related to Climate Change that we need to plan for.
There’s also the Cornell Chronicle Online: “The Cornell Chronicle, Cornell's primary source of news since 1969, is part of the Division of University Communications. The site publishes daily news about research, outreach, events and the Cornell community.” Here’s some articles you should read: “New website is 'one-stop shop' for climate change info ”, “As crop indicators, weeds spread in warmer world”, “Grants support Great Lakes biology surveys ” , “Expert: U.S. must do more to protect climate, environment ”, and “Cows' carbon hoofprint is smaller than thought” .
You can also get the news you need from several of our officials: EPA’s Region 2 News Releases, Press Releases - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Press Releases, and news from the New York State Department of Health.
There are many more ways to get un-blinded by local media’s failure to cover the most important issue of Climate Change. You can check out local newsletters of local environmental organizations, some media from surrounding communities (who are sometimes better than we are in Rochester in environmental news coverage), newsletters from our local universities, and more. You can find these sources on this web page: News Sources - Rochester, NY area. Or you can check the new listing of Climate Change news networks around the world: Global Environmental News.
Here’s the thing: Although our local media believes there are more immediate stories worthy of our attention than Climate Change, more and more of these ‘NEWS!’ stories are going to be absorbed by our scurrying around trying to adapt to the conditions we should have long ago accepted as the new normal. Local news has let us down in failing to educating us day-to-day on how we in Rochester are connected to this world-wide moral, economic, and environmental crisis. The tragic fact about Climate Change is that if only a relative few engage themselves on this issue, it will make the catastrophic consequences of Climate Change inevitable. If our local mainstream media demonstrates that they don’t think it’s important, the public won’t think it’s important either—so there will be scarce political or economic support for the necessary adaptation measures.