A correspondent writes in support of Revkin’s approach, and Revkin pounces of course. Nevertheless, food for thought for me and people like me who have been critical of Revkin.
Andrew Revkin Boy, Michael, if my writing and blogging has allowed even one person (you) to step out of the fog of competing messages and obfuscated science in the climate arena, I feel it’s been worth the hassles (and all that “scorching” you refer to, which has come from folks on all sides of this issue at one point or another).
Is there a way to show enough respect to the opposing argument to engage people so that the litany of skeptical arguments that are tossed about can be sequentially addressed and put respectively into the camps of “confirmed”, “need further research” and “debunked”?
You’ve made an attempt in the past to provide such an evenhanded approach through your journalism, and gotten significant scorching from the climate-campaigner side. But that approach allowed me, a former skeptic, to open myself up for a little cognitive dissonance, which when resolved resulted in a changed view. Am I the only one?
— Michael T. May
It’s worth serious consideration. Revkin is still not off the hook for the Gore/Will fiasco as far as I am concerned, though.
Update: Oh forget it. A man who can write an article on E O Wilson and then wrap it up with a serious discussion of the philosophy of George Carlin and get away with it just has things too goddam easy.
Some schoolteacher should take a red pen to some of his garbage. “Andy, please try harder. These people’s ideas are not comparable or related. Everybody knows you can do better than this. C-“
It is quite possible for the journalism community to continue awarding awards to its members, year after year, even as the public remains grossly under-informed, and even as we continue pouring CO2 into the atmosphere, and even as too many politicians remain deadlocked and ineffective, and even as the climate warms, and even as other species die, and even as large numbers of people are displaced from their homes, and so forth. Not a pretty picture! YET, unless journalism and the news media (including The Times and perhaps especially The Times) wake up, recommit to the ultimate aim of journalism and responsible news, shift their paradigms on how they cover these issues of central importance, raise the bar, find some courage, and so forth, that’s the path that we’ll continue to be on.
Have we (the public, politicians, corporations, etc.) taken responsible and timely and wise actions, of the sort that will most likely be effective, to address these problems (climate change, etc.) or to substantially begin addressing them?
Are we well along our way in doing so? Are we being wise, responsible, and timely?
Are we well prepared (in terms of inform-ed-ness, understanding and will) to continue doing so or, at the very least, to promptly do so beginning tomorrow morning?
Are we well prepared in terms of understanding? Do the public, key politicians, and other key leaders have sufficient understanding to face and address these problems? Do large and effective majorities of politicians and business leaders, in numbers more than sufficient to lead and implement effective solutions, feel the warranted and eager public pressure to do so?
Is the public well prepared and eager to make choices that will serve its own public good in a genuine and healthy way?
What is the state of public understanding?
And so forth.
I won’t bother to answer these questions or to try to quote polls and so forth, here. The answers aren’t good. In fact, given the stakes involved, they are downright dismal. They’re embarrassing. They are nothing to be proud of, speaking here of journalism and the news media generically and in general.
It also helps to keep in mind the dimension of time. For example, it was on April 3, 1980, that Walter Cronkite hosted a rather excellent segment on global warming on the CBS Evening News, no less, at a time when the CBS Evening News enjoyed higher viewership than the other network news programs and when cable news was barely being born.
That was over 29 years ago! And here we are, still, today!
Of course, a substantially under-informed, confused, and fragmented public in a modern scientific democracy, in today’s times, is not a safe and sustainable thing. Period. Public understanding and wisdom are not mere discretionary luxuries. Thomas Carlyle once observed, “I do not believe in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.” The media’s role is vital. The AIM is Vital. And Achieving It is Vital.