The Boston Globe has been doing some great work on environmental issues lately, which is certainly not “balanced” by it’s also publishing the predictable, pro-pollution, propaganda of its in-house conservative Jeff Jacoby. Unfortunately, as print on paper and without the backing of corporate mega-money, it won’t have much of an impact.
Yesterday’s op-ed by Derrick Z. Jackson about the impact of continued corporate propaganda should be read. Coming in the middle of Jacoby’s distortion of the reports in Newsweek about the conspiracy to keep America stupid on global warming, it’s a good place to start.
The most important measure of the onslaught is American ambivalence. Even though 600 scientists from 40 countries concluded this year that global warming is "unequivocal," Newsweek pollsters found that still less than half of Americans -- 46 percent -- say climate change is being felt today. Less than half of Americans support requiring much more fuel and energy efficient vehicles and appliances. In the best dreams of the pooh-pooh lobby, 42 percent of Americans say "there is a lot of disagreement that human activities are a major cause of global warming."
In today’s paper is a piece by Beth Daley about how those old, dirty, sources of green house gasses aren’t being scrapped but are being given a second chance to destroy the biosphere in the third world.
From 4-ton trucks to 40-ton boilers, US vehicles and equipment are finding a second life in developing countries -- postponing meaningful reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by inefficiently using energy or directly emitting carbon dioxide.
A 1950s-era paper-making machine from the Curtis Paper mill in Adams is operating in Egypt. A 1992 school bus from Vermont's tiny North Hero Island is chugging along the roads of Costa Rica. A rock-crushing machine used to make talcum powder in West Windsor, Vt., has been dismantled and reassembled in Colombia.
"This clearly isn't what we want to happen," said Armond Cohen, executive director of the Boston-based Clean Air Task Force, a national advocacy group. "It's troubling that we'd be handing down the remnants of our industrial-era technology rather than helping these places with cleaner options."
This is recycling of the worst kind. It kind of also makes you wonder where the lead painted toys being recalled are ending up.
And also today in the Ideas section is a disturbing investigation by Drake Bennett into what the petroleum industry and - the governments it buys - have in mind when “alternative energy” comes from their lips. The answer is even dirtier forms of fossil fuels, extracted and used at even higher environmental cost, with government subsidies.
Environmentalists see this as a growing disaster. The oil in oil sands is not easily separated out, and the immense amounts of heat required are usually generated with natural gas, giving the oil-sands industry a greenhouse gas footprint much larger than the traditional oil business -- estimates range from 40 percent more to five times the emissions. The process also uses enormous amounts of water: a study by the Pembina Insitute, a Canadian environmental watchdog organization, found that, depending on the method of extraction, every barrel of oil produced requires 2.5 to 4 barrels of water, all of which is then rendered too polluted to return to the water supply. And most oil-sands operations are mines, not steam wells like the MacKay project, making them very disruptive to surrounding ecosystems.
The problem, though, starts with the ignorance of people here and around the world. Ignorant people can’t govern themselves, there is no getting around that most basic truth of life. Ignorant people are at the mercy of any self-interested lie that is put in front of them in an attractive format.
Freedom of the press, as has said here before, is a right given for a purpose higher than the ability of the press to make money. Information is the life blood of democracy and democracy is the only certain means of people to not become the serfs of those with more power. The electronic media, the media that really matters now, is in collusion with corporate interests to sell lies. In many cases, the corporate interests are the media. The electronic, and much print media profits by selling lies on behalf of corporations. Despite the absurd, soporific “more speech” slogans, the willful blindness of the legal system which puts the “rights” of corporations over the right of the people to govern themselves, the inertia of old and disproved habits of thought, the real lesson of the American media is that the clearest truth can’t compete with a well financed lie.
Derrick Jackson points out:
On global warming, which is predicted to pound our coasts with a higher percentage of Katrina-like storms, ExxonMobil pumped $19 million into conservative causes dedicated to pooh-poohing the science. Those causes paid tens of thousands of dollars to those who doubt climate change. In 2003, Republican Party consultant Frank Luntz wrote a memo saying, "You need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue."
If Katrina can’t teach the lesson and really wake up Americans, nothing will except to stop the lies and that really means, to keep the media from lying for profit. The alternative is to watch democracy die and the entire biosphere as well.