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I spend far too much time in front of the computer, wringing my hands.  The steady rhythm of Republican obstructionism, Democratic ineptitude and the world's unbelievable inaction on climaticide is the Mother of All Buzzkills.  

So I made some New Year's Resolutions.  One was to drive less and bike more.  Whereupon we immediately got blizzarded again and again.  Guess that one's going on the back burner till things warm up a tad.  Another resolution was to expand my vegetable garden: the seeds have been ordered.  The third was to get more Climate Concerts organized in 2010.  Artists have been contacted and venues will be scheduled within 10 days or so.  My last resolution was to write a letter a day to the media and/or my Elected Representatives.  I decided to post them on my blog, thereby keeping the pressure on myself.

That's been going pretty well, actually.  I'd like to share my output for the first eight days with you, if you'd care to follow me below the flip.

These are presented as they appear on my website, with my comments and occasional supplementary information.  It's been working, in the sense that the proportion of actual reader comments to viagra spam has been increasing slightly.

Please feel free to use these letters as the basis for your own!

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January 1:

To Newsweek:

The failure of our national media to cover the worsening climate crisis is surely the most important and tragic story of our time.  An intrepid journalist could earn a Pulitzer, nay, a series of Pulitzers, by doing the in-depth reporting which revealed the extent to which our broadcast and print media have been coopted by the deep pockets of climate-change deniers.  Alas, it’s not going to happen.  As with all stories in which the media establishment has been a participant, there will never be any meaningful investigation.  As glaciers melt, oceans become acidified, droughts become endemic, and local weather patterns become increasingly erratic and unpredictable, only one thing is absolutely certain: our media will continue to perpetuate the false notion that "there are two sides to every argument," and the way to practice journalism is to give equal time to both parties.

Thus journalism becomes a travesty of itself.

Would an article on medicine be required to give equal column space to a proponent of the medieval theory of "humours"?  Would an article on air travel be required to give equal column space to a turn-of-the-twentieth-century scientist’s assertion that heavier-than-air flight is impossible?

The decline in the number of Americans who believe global climate change is caused by human beings is not an abstract phenomenon, to be reported "impartially" in the pages of the nation’s press and on the news programs of our networks.  No — that decline is the product of decades of irresponsibility on the part of that press and those networks.  Our descendents (if there are any) will not be kind to the American media of this time, and with good and tragic reason.

WarrenS

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January 2:

To the Washington Post:

The terrifying implications of current climatological research are diluted by the measured language of scientific discourse.  The relatively neutral term "climate change" is grossly misleading.   A more appropriate word would be "climaticide."  The facts are readily available, but what is needed in the public sphere is not measured language, but a clarion call, an alarm warning all of us of a looming catastrophe.   And here is where the print and broadcast media of our culture have profoundly failed humanity.  

By insisting on a specious policy of false equivalence in which the statements of a few corporate-funded denialists "balance" the overwhelming majority of scientific evidence, our media have abdicated their responsibility to the truth.  The simple fact is that if the world’s industrialized cultures do not radically and rapidly change their behaviors, the lives of our children, our grandchildren, and their children in turn will be unimaginably and horrifyingly different.  By failing to inform the public, by failing to take this threat seriously (all the while exaggerating other, less significant problems), the media are now enabling the most serious threat that our planet has ever faced.   Generations to come will look back at the excesses of the twentieth century in shame; they will see the media’s blind indifference to our toxic behavior for what it is: a crime of terrible magnitude.

Ignorance is excusable; willful refusal to engage with facts is not.  The job of the news media is to engage with facts.  Please do your job, so that we (all of us, everywhere) can do ours: trying to change our culture’s direction in time to preserve our world.

WarrenS

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January 3:

To USA Today:

Another blizzard will surely bring another round of blather from climate-change denialists: "Look!  It's snowing!  That means there is no such thing as global warming!"  It is difficult to find words to describe this level and degree of willful ignorance.  One of the oft-repeated and oft-verified predictions of climate scientists is that as the global climate crisis worsens, local and regional storms will increase in intensity and frequency.  Climatologists also predict that anomalous weather events (snow in May, seventy-degree days in February) will occur more often.  While it's not in the purview of scientific prognostication, it's a sure bet that as long as the fossil-fuel industry continues funding denialist research, we will be subjected to increasing levels of mendacity and gullibility from their paid spokespersons.  Our national media has completely abandoned any pretense of being "on the side of truth," and in the long run, the human race will be the loser.

Tomorrow I'll send some faxes to some politicians.

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January 4:

Dear President Obama,

The urgency of the climate crisis is without a doubt increasing by the day.  Yet our national media persists in fostering the misconception that there is doubt about the causes, effects and possible remedies for anthropogenic global warming.  And (tragically) they appear to be succeeding.

If meaningful climate-change treaties are to be ratified, if meaningful legislation is to be passed, it will be because you fought for it in the arena of public opinion.  Please, sir — use the presidential "bully pulpit" to make the case for America's full participation in global efforts to combat catastrophic climate change.  We must lead; if we cannot lead, at least let us lend a hand, rather than hinder the efforts of others.

Thank you,

WarrenS

This was handwritten on the back of a previously used piece of paper and faxed at around 10 am this morning.  I'll email it in a couple of minutes.

The White House FAX number is:  202-456-2461

The White House web page is:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/...

Go tell them something.  Keep the pressure on.

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January 5:

Dear Senator Kerry,

I've lived in Massachusetts all my life, and I'm proud to have you as my senator.  Thank you for your efforts in the area of global climate change, which is surely the most important issue facing America and the world.  I wish I could say that America's response to the climate crisis has been adequate and admirable; alas, that is not the case.  We need to have administrative and political recognition that a meaningful policy on atmospheric CO2 is one that reduces atmospheric ppm to 350 or below; it is my understanding that both Kerry-Boxer and Waxman-Markey set a target of 450 ppm.   Not enough; not enough; not enough. I am sufficiently cynical that the debacle in Copenhagen did not surprise me; I am sufficiently naive that I continue to believe that our system of government may be able to address this terrifying problem competently in the years to come.  It had better; time is running out for all of us.

Yours Sincerely,

WarrenS

I write my faxes out longhand, on the back of previously used paper.  Fortunately I developed legible handwriting many years ago.

After I finish typing out the text for this post, I'll copy it into Kerry's email form, so he'll get it digitally...and of course I'll put the original hard copy in the mail to him.  I got through to fax machines in all his offices except for Springfield, where it just rang and rang.

Kerry's Fax numbers:

Washington D.C.:(202) 224-8525
Boston: (617) 248-3870
Springfield: (413) 736-1049
Fall River: (508) 677-0275

Why don't you write to your senator?

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January 6:

I woke up ahead of the alarm this morning, with thoughts of Arctic methane bubbling in my head.  The notion of planetary life being extinguished by a massive global fart banished sleep entirely.  (Warning: if you wish to retain peace of mind, do not click on that link.)

After I dropped my daughter off at preschool I came home and started to write a note to my Representative, Ed Markey.  Here's what scrolled through his fax machine this morning:

Dear Congressman Markey,

I live down the street from your Medford Square office; a few days ago my daughter and I walked past, and I pointed out your name on the window.  "That's Mr. Markey's office," I told her, "he's a good man and he works to help people and the planet. She nodded her not-quite-five-year-old head solemnly, and resumed her happy chatter a moment later.

And yes, I do want to thank you for your leadership on the critical issue of global climate change.  But it is a sad commentary on the state of American public discourse that the most visible political leadership on the most crucial issue facing our country and our planet is building arguments based on science that is over a decade out of date.  Waxman-Markey, if I understand it correctly, would aim to stabilize atmospheric CO2 at 450 ppm; as I'm sure you're aware, the current scientific consensus is that the absolute maximum target needs to be 350 ppm.  Furthermore, I have waited in vain for you, or any elected representative, to address the grave threats posed by the impending melt of megatons of arctic methane due to higher temperatures — and the terrifying consequences of ocean acidification.  Is confronting scientific truth more than We The People can deal with?  I hope not.

Yours Sincerely,

WarrenS

Washington, DC office: 202-226-0092
Medford, MA office: 781-396-3220
Framingham, MA office: 508-370-8165

I'll put the fax in an envelope and mail it to the DC office later today.  I tried to email the damn thing, but Markey's email form just gave me a 404 error.  Grumble, grumble.

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January 7:

Sent this morning to the Boston Globe.  In keeping with the doctrine of recycling, if they don't print it, I'll send it to some other papers in the next couple of days.

The writer Brian Aldiss defines civilization as "the distance man has placed between himself and his excreta."  Our civilization has done a wonderful job of distancing us from our waste in general, as witness the fact that while the world's largest landfill contains millions of tons of plastic trash and occupies an area as large or larger as the continental United States, it's smack in the middle of the Pacific ocean, out of sight and out of mind.  Similarly, our emissions of carbon dioxide (even as they reside in our atmosphere, all around us) are kept at a great mental distance; it's much easier to think about Tiger Woods' marital problems and the latest episode of a popular television program than it is to confront our own waste and wastefulness.  Emerson said that the human race will "eventually die of civilization."  The ever-increasing likelihood of catastrophic global climate change makes the Sage of Concord's words ring all too true.  

A properly functioning print and broadcast media would be educating the public about these issues, making a clear distinction between scientific truth and irresponsible denialism.  Instead we are treated to a never-ending parade of distractions and irrelevancies, while the world's ecosystems crumble and the possibility of a happy and sustainable life for future generations grows ever dimmer.  

WarrenS

Have you written to your local branch of the Corporate Media today?  You should.  It will give you a few fleeting seconds of satisfaction.

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January 8:

The Boston Herald is the paper equivalent of FOX News here in Boston.  They're owned by Murdoch, and they're about as likely to print my letter as they are to endorse a Bernie Sanders presidential campaign (on the other hand, they've done some good arts coverage in the past; I have some nice clips from the Herald back in the day).  I wasn't feeling particularly inspired this morning, but I thought a few 9/11 references might up the sensationalist content of my letter.  Perhaps that will, er, stimulate them.

The evidence indicating human causes for global climate change is overwhelming and points to a rapidly approaching crisis of unimaginable magnitude.  Our media choose instead to ignore or ridicule mountains of scientific research, instead highlighting one or two oil-funded denialists who argue to the contrary.  Let's put it in perspective.  Remember the build-up to the Iraq war?  Our print and broadcast media became cheerleaders for the Bush administration's preemptive attack on another nation, an attack predicated on the flimsiest of evidence. If the evidence for Iraqi WMDs had been as strong as the evidence for human causes of climate change, we would have found piles of nuclear warheads on every street corner.

Or, to put it another way: the media's dismissal of decades of validated research is painfully reminiscent of a chief executive who received a Presidential Daily Briefing in August of 2001 headed "Bin Laden Determined to Attack in US"; a president who responded to urgent warnings from intelligence officials by saying, "There, now you've covered your ass."   The eagerness of our news establishment to downplay the most urgent threat our civilization has ever faced in favor of celebrity scandals and fashionable irrelevancies is just another version of "Now watch this drive."

WarrenS

Go ahead.  Write to your local Murdoch fishwrap.  Use small words.

letterstoeditor@bostonherald.com

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Well, that's it for today.  One week down, fifty-one to go.  What about you?  

Originally posted to WarrenS' Blog on Fri Jan 08, 2010 at 08:22 AM PST.

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