One of Us! One of Us!
By Mary Annaïse Heglar
If you’ve been paying attention to the media coverage of the war in Ukraine, you’ve heard it:
“This is a relatively civilized, relatively European – I have to choose those words carefully, too – city, one where you wouldn’t expect that, or hope that it’s going to happen.”
“It’s very emotional for me because I see European people with blue eyes and blond hair … being killed every day.”
“Now the unthinkable has happened to them. And this is not a developing, third world nation. This is Europe!”
The shock. The horror. Won’t someone THINK of the WHITE people!
Before I go any further, let me be clear: we absolutely should be thinking of the Ukranians in this hour of dire need. Any barrier to helping them should be removed immediately. We should recognize their humanity and match it with humane treatment. We should see ourselves in them. But to state the please-God-let-it-be-obvious: we should do so not because they are European, but because they are human. And we should extend the same compassion to Congolese and Eritreans and Liberians and Arabs and Persians and Kurds and Indians and Bangladeshis and Filipinos and Martenese and Rohingya and all the other people all over the world running from conflict and collapse all over the world.
It’s the shock that really kills me. It’s rooted in this inane idea that “that” doesn’t happen “here,” not to “us.” I heard it at the height of the Ebola crisis in 2014, too. I remember “experts” smugly and callously dismissing any fears of ebola on American soil with a flippant “just don’t rub feces on your face and you’ll be fine.”* Like that’s what Africans do. But also: we should have been concerned about Ebola whether or not it was likely to make it to the United States, because it was happening to human beings!!!
Those same “experts” were completely unprepared when the COVID 19 pandemic made it to Italy—much less the United Kingdom or the United States—but couldn’t have wasted a fuck when it was “just in China.” And when Trump, a Strong Man, won the election in 2016? Or when the United Kingdom “Brexited”? Coulda knocked these fools over with a feather. This smug, dismissive narrative has a name and it’s white supremacy. These experts (usually white guys) never see it coming because they don’t see how truly unsupreme they are.
Our media has normalized the pain and suffering of people of color to the point that it barely registers as newsworthy. It’s just “a thing that happens.” And there are real consequences of that. It influences who is worthy of empathy and compassion. It’s why Nigerians and Indians fleeing Ukraine are finding closed doors instead of open arms. Because everyone is used to Black and brown people in distress.
And, yes, this is about climate change, too. The climate crisis has been tangible in the Global South for decades now, but in the Global North, so many people felt like the crisis just crept up on them in the past couple of years. Why? Because they’re supposed to have droughts and floods and storms below the equator. In other words, their suffering didn’t count. So our media looked away.
But that’s the thing: you don’t get to be willfully ignorant and then plausibly surprised. Evil has a way of finding itself on your doorstep, no matter how hard you ignore it. And to ignore the suffering of other human beings comes at a serious cost to your own humanity. What happens to the Ukranians matters because they’re one of us. So are the Arabs and Africans and Asians running for their lives and fighting for their freedom. Let’s keep the same energy for them too.
*(Sorry, it’s been a while and I can’t find the link, but those words have been etched in my memory in bloody fire for 8 years.)
Please for the Love of God, Just Hire Climate Reporters
By Amy Westervelt
As we’ve covered before, lots of big media outlets are expanding their climate coverage, and in many cases that means hiring climate reporters. Er, excuse me, hiring reporters for climate positions. Turns out, experience reporting on climate is not high on the list of requirements for these positions.
I kept noticing announcements of new hires at various outlets that are like “so and so previously covered the fashion industry, but she’s passionate about climate,” or “Joe Schmoe previously wrote the real estate column for Rich Executives Monthly.” Okay I’m sorry but what the fuck? There are SO MANY great climate reporters out there right now (and, no, I’m not simping for a job, I actually just really want to see the media get this right!). If it’s an entry-level position, sure, you gotta start somewhere. But, folks, I read a listing for the WaPo climate editor that didn’t require climate reporting experience. Vox climate editor listing? Same. A “passion” for climate sure, but no requirement to have ever actually reported on the subject.
I have no interest in gatekeeping here, I’m glad that more people want to get into climate reporting, but it’s just not the sort of beat you jump into from business or fashion reporting, or dip in and out of as a general assignment reporter. Not because of the science or even the policy, but because of the power. Knowing the names of the bad actors, the language that they’ve used over the years, that’s the type of knowledge you need to be able to spot the next grift.
This is the beat that people most try to manipulate and there are too many vested interests, too tangled a web to just hand someone a quick primer on it and call it a day. Handing climate coverage over to reporters who don’t know yet which sources they can trust, or which stories are bullshit is a recipe for disaster. It’s especially dangerous to have climate editors who don’t know the beat, because they can’t even guide their reporters! It’s not just about knowing where to look for information, it’s knowing how to read between the lines. It’s not about knowing who to interview, but about cultivating insider sources over years. And sorry, there just isn’t a shortcut there.
Outlets that want to instantly beef up their climate coverage would be better served to hire at least one expert editor and one expert reporter who can help train other reporters. This would also make them useful consultants on stories in other realms that intersect with climate (like, well, everything). I did find one listing that required experience on the beat, from the Associated Press—right up top, first bullet point under “The successful candidate will”. Honestly that tells me the only outlet that’s actually serious about providing more and better climate coverage right now is the AP. Here’s hoping the rest of the media gets its act together before it squanders yet another key climate moment.
Of Course the War Is a Climate Story. It’s a WAR!
By: Mary Annaïse Heglar
One of the most frustrating things about working in climate media is this constantly recycled refrain that “now” is not the time to talk about climate change. We heard it at the start of the pandemic, for example. We heard it again in the summer of 2020 when protests for racial justice broke out across the country. And now again with the onset of the war in Ukraine.
It’s fucking maddening. Partially because the stakes of the climate crisis are, in a word, steep, but also because not a single story on the face of this earth is unrelated to climate change precisely because every single story takes place on this earth!
Let’s take Ukraine, shall we? For one thing, one of the reasons Russia is able to wield as much power as it does is because it is a petro-state, meaning it exports gas and oil to Europe and makes a killing doing it, literally and figuratively. Imagine if Europe had gotten off fossil fuels? Russia probably wouldn’t be able to get away with this shit!
Then, there’s the fact that war is one of the most carbon-intensive activities known to man. And the environmental impact of war in a place like Ukraine that is littered with so many abandoned industrial sites is, um, concerning. To take it to the individual level, as those bombs fell, Ukranian scientists were working to finalize this week’s IPCC report.
But one of the main ways climate change is being overlooked in this story is in the motives. Russia is invading Ukraine, as far as I can tell, because it can. Because no one is going to stop it, both because of its nuclear weapons and its oil and gas deposits. Also, Russia isn’t concerned with the climate crisis because, more than anyone else, Russia actually stands to benefit from the crisis. That’s right. Russia is cold AF and climate change gives them way more arable land, more fishable water. As the Arctic sea ice melts, they get more shipping routes. And probably some other shit too.
Oh, and Russia is the fourth largest greenhouse gas emitter, right behind India. If we’re looking at historical emissions, Russia is third, behind the United States and China, respectively. That’s a lot of responsibility to bear for a crisis you aren’t even going to suffer from.
To be clear, there are no winners when it comes to the climate crisis, but Russia is probably the farthest thing from a loser. People, this story has climate written all over it. Of course it does. So can we dispense with this knee-jerk assumption that every new story on the block requires a pause on climate coverage? What we really need is an integration.
Why Is the IPCC Report So Inaccessible?
By Amy Westervelt
You might have heard there was a new IPCC report out this week and it was, predictably, full of bad news…because world leaders still haven’t acted on the last report and problems left ignored get worse, duh. It also delivered the message that the terrible trajectory we’re on can absolutely still be changed, it just requires FUCKING DOING SOMETHING.
I’m not here to talk about the contents of the report, though. I’m more interested in the context. I’m talking about more than 3,000 pages written in inscrutable academese, interspersed with parentheticals after every sentence that indicate how confident researchers are in it (low confidence, medium confidence, high confidence, and very high confidence). Here’s an example:
Why yes those ARE parentheticals and footnotes in the same dense paragraph! But it’s not just the document itself; sure it can be cumbersome and hard to parse but you get there eventually. The report is also shrouded in secrecy before its release and the IPCC makes it damn difficult to register as media. (You have to sign up and pay for an international press pass, then register for each installment of the report. No, you cannot just register once and forget it.)
And here’s my biggest gripe: press get the report less than 24 hours before it’s published, typically. This latest installment was 3,676 pages. I have this weird skill where I don’t really read line by line, I kind of “absorb” pages, which makes me a really fast reader, but even I can’t get through nearly 4,000 pages in an afternoon. And then we wonder why the coverage is always so blah. This is extra frustrating because most media outlets only want to run something the day of or the day after a report comes out, but every journalist I know just started to really wrap their heads around this report by the end of the week.
It’s a critically important document. I can’t help but think if it wasn’t kept almost entirely separate from the public, it could do more to help actually shape policy. Maybe they can’t get rid of the parentheticals or the mind-numbing language, but surely the IPCC could give press a week to make sense of its thousands of pages of detailed research? It would go a really long way toward effectively communicating the findings (very high confidence).
NOTE: Most weeks, we source articles from Earther, Gizmodo’s excellent climate site – but we’re skipping them this week. Why? The Gizmodo union (which includes Jalopnik, Jezebel, The Root, Earther, and more) is on strike while they negotiate better wages and working conditions with their parent org, G/O Media, and we stand with the workers. Don’t cross the digital picket line!
Rising Temperatures, Rising Tides
As planet warms, less ice covering North American lakes | AP News, by Brittany Peterson
Dengue, Lyme, and cholera: how climate change is spurring disease | Grist, by Zoya Teirstein
UN: Climate change to uproot millions, especially in Asia | AP News, by Victoria Milko and Julie Watson
Deforestation emissions far higher than previously thought, study finds | Grist, by Patrick Greenfield
IPCC Report: The Climate Crisis Requires Solutions That Do It All | Atmos, by Yessenia Funes
Combat at Ukraine Nuclear Plant Adds Radioactive Dangers to Russian Invasion - The New York Times, by Valerie Hopkins and William J. Broad
Climate change brings extreme, early impact to South America | AP News, by Diane Jeantet, Mauricio Savarese and Debora Rey
'Crisis': Climate panel flags Great Barrier Reef devastation | AP News, by Kristen Gelineau
Climate Change's Effects Outpacing Ability to Adapt, IPCC Warns - The New York Times, by Brad Plumer and Raymond Zhong
Time Is Running Out to Avert a Harrowing Future, Climate Panel Warns, by Brad Plumer, Raymond Zhong and Lisa Friedman for The New York Times
Warning: Threats are accelerating, by Somini Sengupta for The New York Times
Climatologists: Drought to worsen in Oregon, Idaho this year | AP News, by Gillian Flaccus
5 Takeaways From the UN Report on Climate Hazards - The New York Times, by Raymond Zhong
UN: Africa, already suffering from warming, will see worse | AP News, by Wanjohi Kabukuru
UN: Droughts, less water in Europe as warming wrecks crops | AP News, by Aritz Parra and Sergio Rodrigo
Heat wave a glimpse of climate change's impact in N. America | AP News, by Gillian Flaccus
The Climate Presidency?
Ukraine war upends Biden’s agenda on energy, climate change, by Matthew Daly for the AP
Big Oil is exiting Russia. What does that mean for the climate? | Grist, by Emily Pontecorvo
Lawmakers Push to Ban Russian Oil Imports, Amid White House Resistance - The New York Times, by Catie Edmonson and Clifford Krauss
BP and Shell Leave Russia. What About Exxon? By Audrey Carleton for Vice
Why do corporations greenwash? | Climate Crisis | Al Jazeera, by Khaled Diab
Unite against climate change - Ukraine scientist - BBC News, by Victoria Gill
Documents Identify EPA Officials Who Downplayed Hazards, by Sharon Lerner for The Intercept
Nevada issues permits for Thacker Pass lithium mine | Grist, by Julia Kane
Months after pledge, India yet to submit emissions targets | AP News, by Aniruddha Ghosal for the AP
Neom: What's the green truth behind a planned eco-city in the Saudi desert? - BBC News, by Merlyn Thomas and Vibeke Venema
Water proposals trickle through Utah Statehouse in last days | AP News, by Sam Metz and Lindsay Whitehurst for the AP
Colorado has an abandoned oil well problem. It's asking drillers to pay up. | Grist, by Naveena Sadasivam for Grist
Photos of Oil Executives Having a Great Time With Vladimir Putin, by Audrey Carleton for Vice
Justice Is Justice Is Justice
Who Runs the World? | Atmos, by Willow Defebaugh
Why climate solutions will fail without the help of social scientists, by Rebecca Leber for Vox
“You Can't Separate People From the Planet” by Nylah Burton for The Nation
Glimmers of Hope
The UN Is Finally, Maybe, Doing Something About Plastic Pollution, by Jamie Leventhal for Vice
Healing the Land with Indigenous Science | Atmos, by Whitney Bauck
Climate in Culture
Toxic Nostalgia, From Putin to Trump to the Trucker Convoys, by Naomi Klein for The Intercept
My Daughter Is A Toddler. Here’s What The New Climate Report Says About Her Future, by Zahra Hirji for Buzzfeed
Have We Reached Peak Plant Milk? Not Even Close, by Victoria PEtersen for The New York Times
How to Dress for the Planet - Grist, by the Grist staff
Josh Kline: Living in the Ruined World - The New York Times, by Travis Diehl
When Electric Cars Rule the Road, They'll Need Spots to Power Up, by Jamie Lincoln Kitman for The New York Times
What Does the End of Beef Mean for Our Sense of Self? By Ligaya Mishan, Kyoko Hamada and Martin Bourne for The New York Times
How Offshore Wind Farms Could Transform Land - The New York Times, by Anne Barnard
Disrupting London Fashion Week | Atmos, by Daphne Chouliaraki Milner
Fledgling Georgia oyster fishery held back by limits | AP News, by Sarah Swetlik
Chinese Company Removed as Operator of Cobalt Mine in Congo - The New York Times, by Eric Lipton and Dionne Searcey
Can You Recycle a Greasy Pizza Box? - The New York Times, by Anne Barnard
Searching for the Night Sky | Atmos, by Joshua Sokol