There's a lot of important stuff happening in the world today. Unfortunately, for a lot of people the important news is being drowned out by our media's obsession with reporting mindless sensationalistic crap instead. For example, did you know a double amputee from South Africa, named Oscar Pistorius, who competed in the Olympics as a sprinter, is charged with the gruesome murder his
wife girlfriend, a beautiful model? You should be. A Google news search turns up 169 million results. Someone must think that sordid tale is worth telling.
A far more important news story is the danger posed by climate change. Well, I think it's an important news story. But is the news of the single greatest threat humanity faces as reported upon as much as the murder by a celebrity athlete of his young wife? Well let's see. Google the word climate and then click on the news tab. Guess what? You'll get a search result showing roughly 2,500,000 stories, give or take a few million. Narrow it down further to "Climate change" and you find only a little over 200,000 stories. Even when you narrow you Pistorius search to "Pistorius" and "murder" you still get almost 14 Million results.
In short, news stories about Oscar Pistorius killing his
wife girlfriend are 69.5 times more prevalent on the internet than stories about climate change. Admittedly, the Pistorius murder case is horrific and due to the celebrity involved somewhat worthy of attention. But sixty-nine point five effing times more worthy?
If that disparity in news coverage seem a little strange to you, it shouldn't. In the real world, climate change is occurring and its effects are being felt far sooner, and are far worse, than climate scientists had predicted. It's the ultimate doomsday apocalyptic event. But even as fast as it is happening, that's still not fast enough to make climate change as sexy a story for the news media as the story of a famous disabled Olympic athlete shooting his
wife girlfriend to death. Indeed, television news programs seemingly go out of their way to avoid discussing the issue of climate change.
My guess is that a prominent scientific organization could announce that climate change poses the risk of extinction for the entire human race and we would still see more coverage of the sordid murder of Oscar Pistorius'
wife girlfriend by -- Oscar Pistorius! Because that's just the way our cultural attention span works, or that's what our news media covers.
Of course, it's not just Pscar Pistorius who is deemed more worthy of news coverage than our greatest nemesis. Consider the not so giant asteroid headed to earth (even though it won't hit us or do much of anything to effect life on the planet as it merrily flies by) - Four million results on a Google news search! Thousands of people protest on behalf of a real threat to life on earth - 23,000 results. Meh, who cares? says our somnolent news media.
Heck, even when they do massively cover climate change issues its usually for the wrong reasons. Does anyone remember Climategate? The news media was all over that bogus scandal like flies on bullshit. Coverage of the fact that the so-called scandal wasn't a scandal at all? Crickets for the most part. The media had "moved on."
The news media, and in particular the corporately owned news media (which controls all the television networks and news programming) is not our friend, though I'm sure most of you already knew that. They'd rather spend weeks in a South African courtroom than two seconds talking to a climate activist, much less a climate scientist (unless of course that scientist is a "skeptic"). The TV news media is like a drug that fogs your brain, distorts reality, and creates delusions. In a word, it makes you stupid. And I say that with all due respect for the few news anchors on MsNBC that make an effort to stem the tide of infotainment journalism.
What's the answer to a news media infatuated with reporting sensationalistic "reporting" of matters of very little significance other than appealing to our basest prurient instincts? No offense to the family of Reeva Steenkamp, Oscar Pistorius' dead
wife girlfriend, but much like the OJ Simpson case, or the Jon Benet Ramsey case, or any "White Girl missing" case, how does society benefit from our media's obsessions with such matters?
I do not believe the answer will come from journalists suddenly changing their modus operandi, or from protesters in the streets, or from the scientists who have been warning us for decades of the dangers of global warming. The answer won't come from the mainstream, or politicians, or established institutions. We need what, in another century was referred to as, a Great Awakening. Fortunately we have the communication tools available to us in social media and the internet to make such a thing happen, one person at a time, if need be. But that requires a lot of ordinary people organizing themselves in true grass roots fashion to spread the message that climate change is real, that the threat is more dangerous than most people believe, and that despite the naysayers who claim nothing can be done, there are actions we can take here and now to reverse the path humanity is on.
Some of you have already begun organizing yourselves into the beginnings of the movement we need to create. The folks who have organized around opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline are a great example of what can be done, and what we need to do. But we need to scale up that approach. Everyday some crazy, obnoxious tea party types send out millions of emails that spread lies and distortions, many about the issue of climate change. At the very least we should be matching that intensity, and that passion. After all, we have the benefit of a telling a story that is true, that is based on facts and hard scientific research, not lies and fantasies.
You can start by tweeting or emailing to your friends and family every story about climate change you come across, whether its the arctic sea ice disappearing, the connection of green house gas emissions and rising global temperatures to extreme weather events (heat waves, droughts, floods, blizzard, typhoons/hurricanes), or studies showing that our addiction to burning fossil fuels is causing the greatest mass extinction of plant and animal species in the last 65 million years, i.e. since a really really big asteroid actually hit the earth. And even more important, republish stories about alternatives to fossil fuels and new technologies that can lead the way to a sustainable future.
Will you annoy some people, even among your close relatives? I guarantee that you will. Will some of them "unfriend" you on Facebook? Yes, undoubtedly. But you will also awaken others to the need to address climate change now. Right now most people accept that climate change is occurring. Far fewer of them understand how fast that change is occurring and what needs to be done about it if we are to minimize the impact of adding trillions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere each year.
If you feel that you don't understand the issues well enough, then get yourself educated. Here's a great place to start with links that help even the most science-phobic among us understand why our climate is a changing. Some other websites and blogs I recommend include:
Now get going. Oscar Pistorius can wait.