"I am convinced that ecology cannot be kept secret. Environmental openness is an inalienable human right. Any attempt to conceal any information about harmful impact on people and the environment is a crime against humanity." --Alexandr Nikitin, Russian environmentalist.
Here is an astonishing remark by a newly hired climate reporter for the New York Times “Few topics fuel as much reader attention as climate change.” (Steering the Climate Change Coverage, October 27, 2014 New York Times) It’s astonishing given that the New York Time gutted its climate reporters a while ago and now is rehiring. But it’s also astonishing because National Public Radio has just gone ahead and gutted their climate reporter staff.
NPR Guts Its Environment And Climate Reporting Team, Becomes ‘Part Of The Problem’ NPR has gutted its staff dedicated to covering environmental and climate issues. Given the nation’s and world’s renewed focus on the threat posed by unrestricted carbon pollution, this baffling move is already receiving widespread criticism from scientists and media watchers. It is “a sad commentary on the current state of our media,” as one top climatologist told me. Katherine Bagley broke the story for InsideClimate News. She reports that earlier in 2014, NPR “had three full-time reporters and one editor dedicated” to cover environmental and climate issues within NPR’s science desk. Now, shockingly, “One remains — and he is covering it only part-time.”(October 24, 2014) Climate Progress
The reasoning behind this unfortunate shift? Anne Gudenkauf, senior supervising editor of NPR’s science desk, says “… she doesn't "feel like [the environment] necessarily requires dedicated reporters" because so many other staffers cover the subject, along with their other beats.” (NPR Reduces Its Environment Team to One Reporter, Oct. 24, 2014 Inside Climate News). This response by our public radio would make sense if our collective understanding and acceptance of Climate Change had reached such a level that Climate Change, the mother of all problems, were already understood and assumed by the public to be, indeed, the mother of all problems.
First, the media didn’t cover Climate Change because it was so new they could not decide if it was even an issue worth reporting. Then when they did start covering Climate Change, this issue was framed as if 97% of the scientists who back the science were evenly balanced with the 3% who didn’t buy it. (See Jon Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Climate Change Debate (HBO)”.) And now, presumably, Climate Change is so ingrained into the public consciousness that it makes no sense to have dedicated reporters covering it. This magical jump—where the media leaps suddenly from unbalanced coverage to ‘this is a no-brainer’—avoids the reality that most of the US public are woefully uninformed on an issue that requires massive public planning with massive public backing —as suggested in most Climate Change studies.
NPR’s unfortunate decision is especially tragic considering the fast approach of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris—where the “objective is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. ” Even though we marched 700,000 strong worldwide for the People’s Climate March to demand action on Climate Change, they couldn’t hear us in Bonn, the most recent climate talk preparing for Paris: Governments at Bonn climate talks apparently lose memo on people’s support for climate action (October 25, 2014, Climate Action Network ). Secretary of State John Kerry stated on the excellent climate documentary “Years of Living Dangerously” that in order for countries to stop insane practices like drilling for more fossil fuel in the Arctic, the public needs to demonstrate they care on a level that their political servants cannot avoid. Which is to say, the public must make it clear that not acting on Climate Change is unacceptable if they are to give our leaders the clout they need in tackling this issue. That cannot happen if the public is not informed.
“The final instalment [sic] of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is due for launch on 2 November in Copenhagen, Denmark” (Special Alert: IPCC Synthesis Report, Oct. 24, 2014, The Tree). It portends the last chance, the last fork in the road for humanity:
“It is expected to say that we can go down a clean energy path where we enjoy economic benefits and manage to adapt to modest climate change, or follow a path with increasing carbon pollution worldwide where severe climate change threatens our societies and derails our economies.” [ibid]
The public is so not prepared and informed on Climate Change. To say that a major component of US public broadcasting, a public institution that “has a substantial news operation of its own with hundreds of reporters and editors in a central newsroom in Washington and in bureaus around the country and the world”1, a public entity where 39% of their revenue comes from ‘individuals’ and 4.6% from federal, state, and local governments (i.e. your tax dollars) is doing their job on the most important crisis of our generation by gutting environmental and climate reporters is ludicrous indeed.
NPR is not just another dysfunctional media outlet that we can shrug off. It’s ours; it’s not Murdock’s or a play toy for rich billionaires. Our public communications should not shrink from its prime objective: “The mission of NPR is to work in partnership with Member Stations to create a more informed public — one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and cultures.”( Our Mission and Vision). Our public network, albeit far short of what Europe gets for their tax buck, is not supposed to pander to events, ideas, and cultures; it’s suppose to adequately inform the public about them. Unlike corporate media, which seemingly must indulge the ideology of their corporate backers, their customers’ prurient interests, and the agenda of their advertisers, our public airwaves should be free of all that. Or take out ‘Public’ from NPR.
We don’t have a Pravda (a state-sponsored political propaganda apparatus), nor should we; but we should expect from our public broadcasting independent, impartial and honest information to the public. The public’s (everyone’s) understanding of Climate Change is a must. Coverage must be continual, pervasive, free, and accessible to all. Climate Change is not emotional, nor political, nor economic, nor a special interest: It is our present and future reality and it needs your attention.
Sign this petition, via 350.org Campaigns: DEMAND NPR RESTORE ITS CLIMATE REPORTING TEAM And/or this petition: Sign the petition: Stop NPR from gutting its climate coverage. Also, consider contacting NPR and demand they restore their (your) climate reporting team: Go to NPR’s ‘Contact Us’ and demand they restore their Public mission.