Media Policy Is Climate Policy
By Amy Westervelt
A couple years back, I sat down with NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen to talk about various aspects of media history and climate, and he said this thing that’s really stuck with me about the accessibility of information: journalism was increasingly becoming a luxury, something only for those who could afford it. Which is not the purpose of journalism!
“The reason people go into it is that we are excited by the journalism that we can do for the public. And the public means not people who have coin in their pocket, but people who have problems that can only be solved by other people," he said. "Of which climate change would be one.”
This week the House Oversight Committee officially launched an investigation into climate disinformation that we’ve known was coming for weeks. They sent letters to the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and four oil companies (Chevron, Exxon, BP and Shell) asking them to send an executive to a hearing in October to answer questions about efforts to spin the climate crisis. They also asked for various documents. It’s the first really big step we’ve seen in the government tackling climate disinformation.
Here’s the thing, though: that disinformation could not, would not have worked without the ability to use the media as a tool to further it. If we’re going to overcome not only climate disinformation but the century’s worth of pro-fossil fuel propaganda that came before it, we don’t just need regulations on oil companies, we need media policy. Rosen points out that while we don’t call it media policy, the United States does have several policies that govern media, ranging from media mail rates for postage to the chronic underfunding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting or public access cable channels. “We could solve lots of really difficult problems in our media policy right now just by taking a percentage of revenues from broadcast license sales [the fee every TV or radio channel has to pay for the right to broadcast to the public], we could have a fund to create journalism." Rosen said it wouldn't even take that much money to fund journalism and make it accessible for all. It just requires political will (sound familiar?!). "What we have to do now is we have to rethink that entire thing, the whole system by which we fund journalism from the ground up.”
It’s not just about funding journalism so it doesn’t become a specialty product of the elite, but about regulating the mechanisms of disinformation. Disinformation expert Caitlin Gilbert has studied social media and the spread of conspiracy theories for years, particularly in electoral politics, and she said media literacy is important, but also, “why have these platforms—Facebook, Twitter, YouTube—been completely unregulated for so long.” It’s possible that this country’s devotion to free speech has inadvertently opened the floodgates to propaganda. But is a public that’s constantly lied to really free? If your choices are driven by corporate-funded disinformation, are they really choices?
By Mary Annaïse Heglar
This time last year, I was wandering around New York with my stomach in knots. I was watching the West Coast burn at a rate that had never been seen before, and watching the Gulf Coast drown in a record-breaking hurricane season that would go deep into the Greek alphabet. These were real places that I cared about, and people that I loved were still there. But in New York, life was going on as usual. And, aside from my trusty climate crew, lots of folks thought my preoccupation with these crises across the country was dramatic. Yes, New York had its own share of weird weather and intense heatwaves, but the climate crisis was not tangible and sustainable there yet, at least not to most people. It was frustrating.
Fast forward to now: I’m just getting resettled into my apartment in New Orleans after a 10-day evacuation for a Category 4 hurricane. I’d thought my first hurricane experience on the Gulf Coast would have been a storm or a depression… not the strongest storm to come to Louisiana since before the Civil War. But I can't say I was completely caught off guard.
A lot of folks have asked me if I regret my decision to come or if I’m thinking of moving now. My answer is simple: hell fucking naw. I expected Ida. She didn’t scare me, she invigorated me. In New York, I felt like climate change was always on the horizon, always on the way, waiting on the other shoe to drop. In New Orleans, it’s here. It’s now. And it’s on like Donkey Kong.
I know it sounds crazy, but that is such a comfort. As someone who got bullied a lot in school, there’s a relief that comes when you finally fight your bully after being taunted and threatened all day. You’re no longer in fear mode, you’re in fight mode. At that point, it’s no longer about “will I win” or “will I lose.” It’s about will I try. For me, it’s a much better place to be.
Yet Again, Prison Abolition Is Climate Justice
By Mary Annaïse Heglar
All week, my social media feeds have been full of posts about the crisis at Riker’s Island, the notorious jail in New York City. Apparently, the staff shortages due to COVID and an unlimited vacation policy has led to major back up in necessary services and entire cell blocks left without any administration at all. In some of those cases, the inmates have taken it upon themselves to get people to their court dates and answer the phones.
But the crisis didn’t start with the staff shortages, it started with Rikers itself. Because mass incarceration is a crisis all its own.
While I haven’t been able to find out anything about how Rikers fared while Hurricane Ida wreaked havoc on New York, there have been new reports of the bungled evacuation here in Louisiana. This week, it was revealed that teenagers were evacuated to adult prisons and given little to no contact with their families, presumably to keep people from knowing where they went. Oh, and this adult prison? It also houses adult women prisoners….because the other women’s facility flooded in 2016.
I want to remind you that we’re talking about jails here. We’re talking about juvenile offenders. We’re talking about a system in which it’s up to the county to decide whether or not to evacuate because FEMA refuses to make a plan that includes prisoners outside of their labor. We are talking about people who have not been sentenced to death—not that even that would make it okay. It has been clear for a very long time that mass incarceration is impossible to do in a humane fashion. Layer on the climate crisis, and it’s undeniable that there is no future for either of these things. Not a livable one, at least
Big Oil Started Narrowing the Solutions to Climate Change Before Anyone Even Knew It Was a Problem
By Amy Westervelt
I’ve been working with Dharna Noor over at Earther for the last several months now to create a podcast on fossil fuel influence in schools. We didn’t focus on how schools teach kids about the problem—whether climate change shows up in science class and what the industry has done to keep it out of textbooks. Instead we looked at their involvement in shaping economics, civics, and social studies curricula, the way they effectively winnowed down the solutions we’re allowed to think about when it comes to an environmental problem, and how they started doing that way before the climate crisis went from theoretical to tangible reality.
In this series, we trace those efforts from the 1950s to present day, and from elementary schools on through to universities, where fossil fuel companies have materially shaped law schools, economics programs, and public policy schools. In one presentation that Carroll Muffett, president and CEO of the Center for International Environmental Law shared with us, an industry consultant is walking executives through the value that educational programs bring them, mainly in shaping the regulatory landscape and implanting in people’s brains the idea that the economy always comes before the environment, and that their freedom is fueled by “cheap energy.”
Your weekly round-up of climate coverage.
Rising Temperatures, Rising Tides
Wildfires shutter Sequoia National Park and threaten famous ancient trees, by Kim Bellware for The Washington Post
Hopkins Fire prompts more California evacuations ahead of Biden visit, by Adela Suliman for The Washington Post
Children Around the World Experiencing Climate Anxiety, Anger, by Brian Kahn for Earther
Dirty air can be deadly. Here’s how to protect yourself, by Rebecca Leber for Vox
How wildfires fueled by climate change affect oceans and algae, by Benji Jones for Vox
Rare Absence of Summer Snow Is Killing Mount Shasta's Glaciers, by George Dvorsky for Earther
Biden blames climate change for Western wildfires in major contrast to Trump by Colby Bermel for Politico
Tropical Storm Nicholas drenches Houston, moves north toward Louisiana by Joseph Winters for Grist
More flooding is coming. Here’s how cities can prepare. by Zoya Teirstein for Grist
Climate Scientists Forecast High Temperatures Into the Fall by Henry Fountain for the New York Times
Big Reefs in Big Trouble: New Research Tracks a 50 Percent Decline in Living Coral Since the 1950s by Bob Berwyn for Inside Climate News
The Rate of Global Warming During Next 25 Years Could Be Double What it Was in the Previous 50, a Renowned Climate Scientist Warns by Bob Berwyn for Inside Climate News
The Climate Presidency
Lobbyists scramble to shape key energy and climate provisions, by Steven Mufson and Tony Romm for The Washington Post
9 questions about the Civilian Climate Corps, answered, by Tik Root for The Washington Post
For Joe Manchin, It's Always About Joe Manchin, by Joan Walsh for The Nation
Climate Change and Biden: Actions Don't Match Rhetoric, Activists Say, by Ryan Bort for Rolling Stone
Lobbying Groups' Support Climate Regulations, Just Not Democrats' Bill, by Dharna Noor for Earther
Biden pushes for investments to confront climate crisis on California stop of western U.S. trip By Steve Holland for Reuters
‘It’s a reality’: Biden calls for urgency in California as climate crisis fuels wildfires by Dani Anguiano for The Guardian
Progressive Democrats Set Out to Defund the Fossil Fuel Industry by Aída Chávez for the Nation
What Can a President Do About Wildfires? by Christopher Flavelle for The New York Times
Democrats are negotiating a once-in-a-decade climate plan by Zoya Teirstein for Grist
Biden Tours Wildfire Damage in California, by Christopher Flavelle and Zolan Kanno-Youngs for the New York Times
Exxon Helped Cause the Climate Crisis. It’s Time They Paid Up, by Mark Hertsgaard for The Nation
Did Occupy Wall Street Make a Difference? By Ruth Milkman, Stephanie Luce, and Penny Lewis for The Nation
Automakers Don't Want You to Get a Discount for Buying Union-Made EVs, by Aaron Gordon for Vice
Facebook Pretends It's Cracking Down on Climate Misinformation, by Molly Taft for Earther
Los Angeles County Bans New Oil Wells, by Dharna Noor for Earther
Utilities Try to Silence Critics on Twitter, by Molly Taft for Earther
Sweeping Illinois Clean Energy Bill Also Bails Out Nuclear Power, by Molly Taft for Earther
The climate costs of keeping Line 5 open would be very high by Jena Brooker for Grist
California wants to ban misleading recycling labels. Plastic companies don't. by Joseph Winters for Grist
Facebook steps up fight against climate misinformation – but critics say effort falls short by Kari Paul for The Guardian
Production of forever chemicals emits potent greenhouse gases, analysis finds by Tom Perkins for The Guardian
By Hiroko Tabuchi for The New York Times
Justice Is Justice Is Justice
How inaction on climate change can worsen the crisis in Afghanistan, by Jariel Arvin for Vox
Meet The Park Ranger Who Stood Up to Land Grabbers And Got Shot For It, by JC Gotinga for Vice
Colorado River Negotiations Must Include Indigenous People, by Dharna Noor for Earther
Poll finds large percentage fear having children because of climate crisis by Alexandra Kelley for The Hill
Four in 10 young people fear having children due to climate crisis by Fiona Harvey for the Guardian
Investing For Climate Change Means Investing In Healthcare by Divyam Goel for Forbes
How inaction on climate change can worsen the crisis in Afghanistan by Jariel Arvin for Vox
2020 was the deadliest year for environmental activists. Here's why. by María Paula Rubiano A. for Grist
Study: More than half of young people think 'humanity is doomed' by Kate Yoder for Grist
Indigenous Tribes Facing Displacement in Alaska and Louisiana Say the US Is Ignoring Climate Threats by Dalia Faheid for Inside Climate News
Glimmers of Hope
U.S., Europe plan joint push to cut methane — and convince other nations to follow suit, by Brady Dennis, Michael Birnbaum, and Steven Mufson for the Washington Post
Cows trained to urinate in MooLoo may help reduce greenhouse emissions, by Jennifer Hassan and Rachel Pannett for The Washington Post
SpaceX Will Launch Major Weather Satellite With $153 Million From NASA, by Dharna Noor for Earther
Climate in Culture
Meatless Mondays Worked. Now Let's Expand That Idea, by Eleni Vlachos for The New Republic
People around the world increasingly see climate change as a personal threat, new poll finds, by Brady Dennis and Adam Taylor for The Washington Post
75 Percent of Young People Are Frightened by the Future. That’s the Only Sane Reaction to Climate Change, by Liza Featherstone for The New Republic
Young climate activists channel anxiety about floods and wildfires, by Ellin Francis for The Washington Post
Climate Change Is Negatively Affecting Young People's Mental Health Globally by Sharon Pruitt-Young for NPR
Richard Powers’s “Bewilderment” Is an Exercise in Empathy, by Gish Jen for The New Republic
How to end the American dependence on driving, by Gabby Birenbaum
Generational conflict over climate crisis is a myth, UK study finds by Amelia Hill for the Guardian
Late-Night Shows Are Teaming Up to Tackle Climate Change by Dave Itzkoff for the New York Times
We Are on the Precipice of a Housing Disaster, by Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis for The Nation
What's killing Minnesota's moose? By Liz Scheltens for Vox
The ABCs of Big Oil: A Podcast Coming Soon From Earther and Drilled, by Dharna Noor for Earther
‘I Was Just in Shock’: Mass Bird Death Reported in New York City, by Dharna Noor for Earther
More Murder Hornet Nests Found in Washington State, by George Dvorsky for Earther
Illinois signs landmark clean energy law by Jena Brooker for Grist