I’ve been casting about, recently, for how to express what I mean about the three kinds of non-delusional climate blogs, and what the difference between them might be, in such a way as not to make unnecessary enemies, but also to promote this kind of one, which in the long run I assert is much more important than the other two kinds.
OK, on the one hand we have old-line journalism, which seeks something it calls “fairness”. It’s a very American concept and it’s based on a vanished and perhaps somewhat mythical past when America had two vaguely stodgy, more or less responsible, and from a distance not easily distinguishable political parties, called “Coke” and “Pepsi”. Sorry, called “McDonald’s” and “Wendy’s”. So the journalist would be called upon to parse the smallish difference between the two, everyone would color between the lines, and all was well in Happy Valley. (No grumblers or malcontents, you understand.) These guys are playing a game which no longer makes much sense, not only as a business model but also as a social model, now that one of the two parties is ideological, stubborn, and reluctant to face reality, while the other is certifiably insane.
This odd neutrality is an American model of journalism. You won’t find much of the sort coming from elsewhere. Clearly in this class are Keith Kloor, Andy Revkin, and my favorite of this ilk, John Fleck.
On the other hand, we have advocacy journalism. After dismissing the people who are totally wrong on the facts, we find ourselves dominated by Joe Romm’s Climate Progress. There’s also David Roberts, Brad Johnson, and that sort. Often worth reading, but not of my tribe.
What they are trying to do doesn’t seem like what I’m trying to do, or what Eli is trying to do, never mind what the purists like Tamino and Maribo and Grumbino are trying to do. So what is the difference? All of us are in favor of rapid, dramatic, effective and permanent changes in public behavior. But what we write about and how we write about it is different.
Then there’s the question as to why Climate Progress and Grist get so much more traffic (at least according to Technorati). Now, there’s some question as to how to measure that. Alexa puts me “not in the top 100,000” with Climate Progress at about 12,000th while Technorati has me at a respectable #2598 with Climate Progress at #264. Finally, I have 172 subscribers in Google Reader, while Joe has 1363. So in general, it seems he has about 8 to 10 times the traffic I do.
Well, he started out better known, I guess. Though I’ve been a presence on the net forever, net pioneers don’t automatically get that much momentum from it. I think the issue is this: what Romm produces is newsy.
All of this is pretty much a reprise of the previous article. So what’s new? A couple of things.
First is the recent coverage of pushback to Waxman-Markey. Like many people, I’ve always been suspicious of the climate bill passing through Congress, not because it’s “too weak”, but because it’s too messy. It seemed put together in a hurry and intended to buy people off, to incur huge unnecessary costs and likely to create huge unproductive hard-to-stop cash flows of exactly the sort that cause people to be suspicious of government. But I was urged by fans of the bill to keep my mouth shut on the grounds that I didn’t know whereof I was speaking. Except that sure enough, now people who know whereof they speak say, well, that it was put together in a hurry and intended to buy people off, it incurs huge unnecessary costs and it will create huge hard-to-stop cash flows of exactly the sort that cause people to be suspicious of government.
But still, we are urged to keep our traps shut, on the grounds that “the incumbent party always loses midterm elections”, it will be many years before “we” have similar supermajorities in the house, and therefore “this is the best we can do”.
And I think we finally divide ourselves newsies and non-newsies, into people who believe this makes a whit of sense and those who don’t. Non-newsies prefer a public in touch with reality, and are willing to take the time needed to get there. We don’t think a “bad bill is better than nothing” because we are not interested in a bill, we are interested in a public which understands the problem and therefore supports the necessary actions. We are interested in a public which would not elect James Inhofe senator from Oklahoma. A tall order, yes, but the fact is that nothing less will work. And if passing a lousy reputation-tarnishing mess reduces CO2 by a few points for a few years until it’s torn down in a flourish by a resurgent and still delusional opposition, it won’t be worth it in the long run.
Which brings us to today’s articles on the concept of slow news, which I suppose is another idea that I won’t get credit for, though in this case I was going to steal it from my wife. (I alluded to it briefly here.) Slow news (via the first link in this paragraph), apparently
comes down to this: The faster the news accelerates, the slower I’m inclined to believe anything I hear — and the harder I look for the coverage that pulls together the most facts with the most clarity about what’s known and what’s speculation.
Call it slow news. Call it critical thinking. Call it anything you want. Give some thought to adopting it for at least some of your media consumption, and creation.
I think that’s not enough. Slow news means putting your brain in gear for things that take longer than a news cycle to change, even though the changes are enormous, and rapid on their own terms. Melting glaciers. Plummeting aquifers. Accumulating plastic crap in the ocean. None of these things noticeably worse this week than last, but all dramatically worse than fifty years ago, and all struggling for attention.
The question, then, is not whether Inhofe will be re-elected. It is how the people of Oklahoma came to be superstitious, paranoid, and generally misused by the people they trust, and what we can do about it. It’s a tall order, but it comes with a side of sustainability.
Now I know that in a sense this is dreaming. The majority of the people in the world cannot read a graph. I don’t know if that is inevitable (I think it isn’t) but it is inevitable that not everybody is a scientist, and that not even a scientist can be familiar with all of science.
But we do need social networks that trust the right people. Barring that we’re in very bad shape. And tricking people into a 20% carbon reduction along with raiding the treasury was a bad bargain even back when there actually was a treasury. What we need is leadership, not legislation. The legislation will follow if the leadership actually happens.
Maybe, in the end, there are inside-the-beltway blogs and outside-the-beltway blogs. I wish the insiders all the fun and games they desire. But in the long run, we’d better figure out how to get the basic ideas across to the public.
In the short run, I think we’re already hosed. The tortoise never starts out ahead.
The image, by the looks of it out of copyright, was lifted from http://www.ltseo.com.au