April 15, 2002
Environmental Time Warp

This is a reminder of what was being said 25 years ago. Although it is probably disavowed by its authors and supporters, it was presented as straight news in 1975.

The same rhetorical hand wringing is now being used for diametrically opposed arguments.

For those of you not old enough to remember the mid-to-late 1970's, everyone was concerned that we were all going to freeze to death. The unusually cold winter of 1977, when it snowed as far south as Fort Lauderdale, brought forth terrified predictions of ice sheets covering Canada and most of the United States, dramatically lowered sea levels (from large amounts of water being converted to ice), and economic catastrophe (as nations hoarded resources for the coming apocalypse). Of course, these same experts were positive that SST's such as the Concorde were going to destroy the ozone layer, and that hundreds of millions of people were going to starve to death (the last from everyone's favorite leftist Cassandra, Paul Ehrlich).

posted on April 15, 2002 08:48 PM


The question is why does anyone still listen to these people?


posted by Myria on April 16, 2002 01:15 AM

It is a combination of the journalistic bias (most mainstream journalists prefer the progressive agenda of the environmental movement), outright advocacy on such matters, and some journalistic laziness.

Journalistic bias is pernicious because it is not a conscious effort to promote the agenda, but rather an assumption that environmentally-friendly policies are proper, and anyone opposed to them must be an extremist, or a tool of big business. It may manifest itself as inconsistent labeling (labeling pro-business groups only, or "conservative" without the contrasting "liberal" for the opposing quote), or words such as "claim" or "assert" or "argue", all of which imply the view is not entirely valid, It's subtle, but if you read carefully, you will see it.

Advocacy is more obvious-Time magazine admitted several years ago that its coverage of environmental issues had moved from reporting to advocacy (they actually were proud of this stance). This can be illustrated by stories that get spiked because they don't run with the agenda of the environmentalists, or stories that have little science backing them but sound ominous (such as last year's "melting polar ice cap story" that the New York Times eventually retracted) receiving heavy coverage.

Journalistic laziness helps explain why fools such as Ehrlich keep getting coverage. The reporters have contact info on him, and know that he is always good for a quote (regardless of how wrong or alarmist) and get a quote from him, rather than seeking out new sources. Laziness also accounts for press releases from the Sierra Club or the Natural Resource Defense Council making it into newspapers unedited and unverified; these groups employ skilled writers to produce propaganda that a rushed reporter or a harried editor can drop into a newspaper to flesh it out. This has happened more than once, and at more than one newspaper.

posted by scutum on April 17, 2002 02:01 PM

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