Monday, September 21, 2015

Six reasons why Rochester media didn’t cover election forum

On Wednesday evening, Sept. 16th, from 7 to 9PM, at least fifteen candidates for local county and city offices addressed questions on “Building an Economy for Climate Stability” to a large gathering at the Harley School in Brighton. It was a unique opportunity for voters to hear their potential leaders speak about how they would help create a climate for green jobs and address Climate Change locally. Everyone in the room at Harley had a chance to hear the science of Climate Change urgently brought to the local level from their well-informed and enthusiastic candidates. Except the Rochester media was not there. Not one. Not only that, but none of our local media (except Rochester City Newspaper and WXXI’s “Connections”) helped promote this critical local forum that attempted to address the crisis of our age.

Why not? Why wouldn’t the media in the third largest city in New York State bother promoting and covering an election forum that would encourage more citizens to attend, vote, and get educated on local election issues? This media silence is even more puzzling given the constant navel-gazing by our mass media as to why the public doesn’t vote:

Forum asks: Why don't we vote?  | Meager turnout in last week's primary election left voting advocates wondering why so few people exercise their right to vote, and how to get more citizens to the polls. The League of Women Voters of the Rochester Metropolitan Area will seek answers at a public forum at 7 p.m. Monday at Asbury First United Methodist Church, 1050 East Ave. Nazareth College professor Timothy Kneeland will lead a discussion with George Moses, director of North East Area Development, and Andrea Cain, vice president for programs and interim CEO of Community Place. (September 17, 2015) Rochester Democrat and Chronicle

So to help you understand this seeming hypocritical stance by our media (wanting voters to vote but refusing to promote or cover election forums), we have come up with some conjectures as to how this bizarre phenomenon might have come about:
  • 1.   The forum in question--“Building an Economy for Climate Stability Candidate Forum 2015”—included the word ‘climate’. ‘Climate’ brings to mind the phrase “Climate Change’. As everyone knows, Climate Change is very controversial in the Rochester region—even though 97% of climate scientists say that it is happening, it’s human caused, and we need to do something about it. Rochester media doesn’t want to have elections about controversial stuff. If the forum had been about puppies, sports, or keeping taxes low, Rochester media would have felt safe enough to let the public know about the forum.
  • 2.      Pope Francis didn’t attend the forum. Even though he has written one of the most powerful and cogent books on the need to address Climate Change in his encyclical, if Pope Francis had attended the forum, Rochester media would have filled the room. The media would have fallen all over itself to promote this event. But then there wouldn’t have been any room in the room for the public. The public would have been forced behind barricades several blocks away from the forum, only able to pine longingly for the Pope’s attention. So we are pretty certain that the local media, as goes the GOP Catholic presidential candidates, would just as soon have the Pope stay home at the Vatican so no one feels morally compelled to act.  
  • 3.      The GOP Monroe County executive candidate didn’t come. If she had come, Rochester media would have done everything in their power to promote this event and cover it because she is the sure winner. Our media likes winners, winners of races, winners of lotteries, winners of anything really. But the GOP Monroe County executive candidate didn’t come because the media didn’t promote the event and threaten to cover this forum. If the media had threatened to come, then the GOP candidate would have had to come. I know, this crazy logic is Catch 22 but that’s how local politics works. If you are going to win the election anyways, why go to a forum where you’ll have to disclose how you would lead on Climate Change? You might not even believe in the science of Climate Change. Duh! And so speaking to the public on Climate Change would be very awkward and needlessly threaten your lead. It’s easy: if you’re going to win anyways you have to be pushed by the media to talk to the public about things you don’t want to talk about, and you’re certainly not going to be pushed by a media that doesn’t see the point of a democracy. 
  • 4.      Rochester media was too busy watching the National GOP debate that evening and besides no one as colorful as Donald Trump was scheduled to be at the local forum. If Donald Trump had been at the local forum, instead of performing on national TV, Rochester media would have had a chance to publish some very quotable (though crazy) quotes from the Donald.  But he wasn’t, so they didn’t.
  • 5.      Rochester, as everyone knows, is in a sweet zone and not subject to the laws of physics. The world is burning up, but not Rochester. Proof of this is weather for the last two winters (we’ll forget about the last two decades) was very cold; we had a very picturesque winter with lots of snowmen and children sledding. Rochester media thought it the height of absurdity to cover an election forum about our region addressing the consequences of Climate Change—when we weren’t experiencing any of those alleged consequences. It would be like covering a story about the best way to get to the Emerald City when there isn’t even a Yellow Brick Road to get there.
  • 6.      The Rochester media didn’t know about this event. All local media’s email went down at once just as they were being contacted by the Rochester People’s Climate Coalition (RPCC) and the League of Women Voters; all of the hundred-plus candidates contacted conspired to keep it a secret; and (risking your incredulity further) the media has been oblivious that an election is coming up this year and has completely failed to keep up with related events.

Once the public understands that the media is a business and not an information system, it’s easy to understand why Rochester media would not go out of their way to promote and cover an event that wouldn’t bring them any money. As a matter of fact, if they were to imply by their very coverage of this event that Climate Change was important enough to cover, the media might find that many of their subscribers would unsubscribe. Why would customers attend to a media who published stuff they didn’t want to hear about? Or, because the media hasn’t been connecting the dots locally on Climate Change over the years, then suddenly attending a forum on addressing Climate Change, it could cause their customers to question why customers were buying into this dysfunctional media in the first place.

The media, for various reasons, did not choose to cover this forum. And so once again those concerned about this worldwide crisis as it pertains to our region grind away ineffectually in a silo of silence—a place where the rest of the community isn’t bothered by this crisis (until they are by the laws of physics). Rochester goes on ignoring the fact that it is the job of their elected officials to protect them on a planet that is quickly warming.

Time passes. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

The inconvenience of the Pope’s Climate Change visit to the USA

Ahead of Pope Francis’s visit to the United States and an address to a joint session of Congress was the pontiff’s release of his climate encyclical. The “ENCYCLICAL LETTER LAUDATO SI’ OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME”, an incredibly clear and eloquent argument for the moral imperative for addressing Climate Change, is assumed to be a part of the pope’s message to Congress.

Read: “Pope Francis' American Crusade The pope takes on climate change, poverty and conservative U.S. clerics (9/10/2015 Rolling Stone)

Pope Francis has continually led on the myriad efforts to make the COP21 Paris Treaty a success, a treaty that attempts to keep greenhouse gases to a livable level, produce a worthwhile Green Climate Fund, and produce a unified method for tracking GHG emissions. Ultimately, as the pontiff has no official negotiating powers, his authority comes from his unique positon to gain the attention of the world media, governments, his Christian followers, and other religions’ leaders.

Having said that, the pope still has his work cut out for him. The media, our governments, and the populace in developed nations (who have already reaped the lion’s share of benefits from burning fossil fuels) seem disinclined to hear the Pope’s central message: Climate Change is happening, humanity is at least partly responsible, and we have a moral obligation to address this crisis. Rather, the spectacle of a papal visit, complete with all the pomp and circumstance (including the selling of Pope T-shirts), threatens to distract everyone from the major reason for the pope’s visit to the USA.      
This local news item about ten Rochester area folks winning tickets to see the Pope in Washington, DC highlights media’s Climate Change dysfunctionality.
10 local people win tickets to see Pope Francis  The Pontiff will be in Washington, D.C. later this month 10 people from the Rochester area have won tickets to see Pope Francis in Washington, D.C. later this month. (September 9, 2015) 

It’s a sure winner for the media to announce the lottery winners of anything. As far as the media are concerned, It’s doesn’t matter what prize people win; announcing lottery winners brings in readers and revenue. Except the real importance of this story is conveniently missing. That a New York State Senator has found a way to promote the pope’s visit to Washington, DC to speak to Congress, which will include urging our reluctant leaders to take action on Climate Change, has been entirely dodged by the media. A fixation on a lottery, the gritty details of winners and losers, better suits a media that is far more interested in grabbing people’s attention than connecting the dots to the most important issue in their customers’ existence. 

Our US Congress is a critical obstacle in the world’s attempt to mitigate Climate Change, as the GOP-led institution threatens to pull the rug out from under any agreements that President Obama makes at the COP21 Paris Treaty in late November.

The Pope’s talk to Congress will be a great inconvenience to those (including a couple of presidential candidates) who will not connect morality with Climate Change, whose publishing outlet is a front for the fossil fuel industry, and those whose view of the world is not anchored in science.

Our local media cannot stop the pope from talking about Climate Change. Nor can they not cover the visit, it’s just too much of a money-maker for them. But what they can do is dazzle the public so that the visit becomes more like the ostentatious theatrics of a rock star stopover than an historic attempt to right the moral compass of our time.

There will be many attempts in Rochester, Buffalo, and around the world to highlight the importance of the pope’s visit. Your participation in any of these events might catch the notice of our local media to start paying attention to Climate Change:

·         Monday, September 21, 2015-­‐ Interfaith Prayer Service in St. Mary’s Catholic Church at 15 St. Mary’s Place in Rochester, NY @ 5:30-­‐6:30.
·         Thursday, September 24, 2015-­‐ March for Climate Justice at Liberty Pole in Rochester, NY @ 4:30 p.m.
·         September 24 at 4:00pm | (Niagara Square ) Buffalo Place - 671 Main Street - Buffalo, NY 14203
o   Rise Up for Climate Justice! Rally at Niagara Square on September 24 GETTING TO PARIS AND A SANE CLIMATE AGREEMENT Mobilizing Western New York for Climate and Economic Justice  (September – December 2015)  Rise Up for Climate Justice JOIN US  Rally at Niagara Square on September 24 at 4:00pm  The day Pope Francis speaks to the U.S. Congress Vigil/Fast during Paris Talks, Nov. 30 – Dec 11,
·         September 24, 2015 | Washington DC
o   People’s Rally for Climate Justice - Moral Action on Climate - MAC On September 24, Pope Francis will address a joint session of Congress, and we will gather in support of his call for urgent action to address the climate crisis and create a new future of economic equality, social justice, and environmental equity.  Join us in Washington DC or plan events where you are, and post them here!READ the People’s Climate Covenant: A Formula for U.S. Leadership at the Paris Climate (Listing thanks to Re-ENERGIZE Buffalo.)
·         During the week of September 21-25,
o   Week of Moral Action for Climate Justice - MAC During the week of September 21-25, thousands of people will come together - in Washington DC and across the country - joining with Pope Francis to underscore the moral aspect of the climate crisis, and to call America to heed its moral duty to act for climate justice. MAC Website: (Listing thanks to Re-ENERGIZE Buffalo.)
·         Oct. 1st, 7 pm at St. Boniface Church, 330 Gregory Street, Rochester, NY
o   “Major Presentation on Pope Francis's Environmental Encyclical You've heard that Pope Francis has written an encyclical (a formal letter) calling for urgent action on climate change. And here's your chance to learn exactly what's in this strong, important document, addressed to "every person living on this planet." Dr. Gerry Gacioch will speak about "Pope Francis Encyclical top 10" on Oct. 1st, 7 pm at St. Boniface Church, 330 Gregory Street. Dr. Gacioch, who is Chief of Cardiology at Rochester General Hospital, is passionate not only about heart health but also about the health of our planet. A nationally known speaker, he is famed for his engaging and challenging presentations about Catholic Social Teaching on the climate. Here's a teaser from the Pope's encyclical, subtitled On Care for Our Common Home: "Our common home is falling into serious disrepair.… In the meantime, economic powers continue to justify the current global system where priority tends to be given to speculation and the pursuit of financial gain." The Pope also analyzes "the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet," since "everything in the world is connected." Come hear more: Oct. 1st, 7 pm at St. Boniface Church, 330 Gregory Street, Rochester, NY.”

Related: On Wednesday, September 16 7:00-9:00 PM at the Harley School, 1981 Clover Street, in Rochester, the Rochester People's Climate Coalition and the League of Women Voters are hosting a forum on Building an Economy for Climate Stability. This event, moderated by Dr. Susan Spencer, President and Founder of ROCSPOT, presents a unique opportunity for voters to learn how their candidates’ platform relates to Climate Change solutions. 

It remains to be seen whether the Republican candidate for Monroe County Executive will show up, whether the media will show up and cover this event, or whether the local media will even mention this forum—which is an attempt to educate the entire Monroe County public on how Climate Change will be addressed locally.

Our local media, which likes to make much of nothing and nothing of much, must find Climate Change very inconvenient, especially when physics and the pope are threatening their artful dodging on the mother of all problems by coming here and shaking things up.

Time passes. 

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Weathering Rochester’s winters during Climate Change

Put away your Farmer’s Almanac because predicting our Rochester regional weather based on the past is no longer valid.

Our local leaders and our media who are supposed to be preparing us for winter should be mindful of the big picture: Climate Change. A warming Arctic is affecting our atmospheric jet streams, which is sometimes sending Arctic cold at points (like our Northeast) lower than usual.

Yes, a Warmer Arctic Means Cold Winters Elsewhere. Here's How. Rising Arctic temps are changing the jet stream, drawing cold air further south, showing climate change can drive extreme weather in unexpected ways. Melting sea ice and warmer temperatures in the Arctic are to blame for the brutal cold snaps that have plagued parts of Asia and North America in recent years, according to new research by Korean and European scientists released Monday. The study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Geoscience, adds to the growing evidence linking rising Arctic temperatures to changing weather patterns across the globe. It also helps further debunk one of climate deniers' favorite arguments: cold weather proves the world isn't warming from the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. (August 31, 2015) Inside Climate News

Our winters won’t necessarily be getting colder; they will be getting wackier.

This makes predicating our winter’s weather problematic. How do we plan properly for our winters now that past winters are a lousy prognosticator for future winters? Based on the last two winters, where the winters were harsh, should we be buying lots of snow removal equipment, stocking up on firewood, setting aside lots of money for staying warm, piling up on salt, and hiring lots of folks for snow removal? Or will this winter shift back to the warmer winters we have been experiencing for the last couple of decades—where Lake Ontario was losing 88% of its ice cover? Will this year’s strong El Niño keep the Great Lakes from freezing over at all?

We could swing from much warmer winters with much more flooding and zigzagging frost days (which devastate local fruit trees), or experience massive lake-effect snows that cripple our transportation systems. And everything in between. Besides El Niño and the Arctic jet streams, there is something else at play: the Northeast has been experiencing a 71% increase in heavy precipitation events since 1958, which means a warm winter could bring more flooding and a cold winter could drop a snowmageddon amount of the white stuff at once.

Already, we are facing a new normal of Climate Change, winter-related dilemmas. When President Obama toured Alaska (which is warming twice as quickly as the lower 48 and unleashing devastating wildfires) this week, he was confronted with the political problems of a quickly warming Arctic.

The Next Not-So-Cold War: As Climate Change Heats Arctic, Nations Scramble for Control and Resources According to investigative journalist James Bamford, the region has become the "crossroads of technical espionage" as the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway and Denmark battle for control of those resources. Bamford joins us to talk about his recent piece, "Frozen Assets: The Newest Front in Global Espionage is One of the Least Habitable Locales on Earth—the Arctic." (9/1/2015, DemocracyNow!)

Russia has 41 icebreakers (including two that are nuclear) and we have only two freaking ice-crunchers that are about to be mothballed. Do we shell out millions of bucks to buy some brand new icebreakers to help police a warming Arctic, or outsource some Great Lake icebreakers, which might leave the shipping there in peril?

We are in new territory as we adapt to winters on a warming planet.

It’s not a complete crap shoot, though. If we view our changing winters through the lens of Climate Change and develop long-term climate action plans, we can better budget our monies and resources so we can become more resilient. We are already sending firefighters from our region to places that are burning up. We often send emergency crews for disaster relief and power outages elsewhere. We should ramp up our response to wacky winters that are coming by sharing plans, people, and equipment instead of piling up our reserves getting ready for the past. 

Our leaders and our media cannot continue to play dumb and say the science on Climate Change isn’t settled.

Our leaders and our media need to see our winters through a larger lens than year-to-year.

Thinking about the unthinkable: Winter “After two years of harsh winters, people are bracing for another worst-case scenario” (8/30/2015 Daily Messenger).

Our leaders and our media need to bring Climate Change into their projections to adequately inform and prepare the public for dramatically different winters than we have ever experienced. If we continue the way we are going (ignoring Climate Change) we are going to be constantly playing catchup on winter preparations—until we cannot afford it anymore.

During our up-coming elections, consider asking candidates how they will lead on Climate Change.

Time passes.