They're talking about the wrong cliff

Written by Diana Nelson Jones on .


Wen Stephenson, a former mainstream journalist who has become a climate change activist journalist, spoke on National Public Radio’s “Here and Now” today, and his message must be shared.wenstephenson

His main message in the interview was that the mainstream media are failing the people and the future of the world by following the politicization of climate change instead of the science of it, by failing to report on the “what we can do” in part out of timidity for seeming to take sides.

There are no sides to take, he says, and this must be driven home. The scientific community is — shy of a few cranks and mercenaries — wholly in step on this crisis, and it is a crisis that is gaping open like a big evil mouth we are driving toward. We will drive into it and be swallowed if we don’t reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2020. That’s eight years away. Can we manage 80% by 2050?

Wen (in above photograph by Jesse Costa of WBUR Boston) charged his former colleagues and other environmental journalists in the mainstream media to begin reporting on the scientific issues and the solutions that we as a species can work toward. He blames politicians for failing to lead on this issue, but he blames journalists equally because of the lack of political will; it is the job of reporters to lead the politicians, and it is the job of all citizens to demand a change of course, and now.

Here is the entire presentation that aired today on WESA-90.5fm.

I listened to this interview as I was driving from a doctor’s appointment. Yes, I was driving, and so were thousands of other people on my route, slowing as the road narrowed in both directions for repairs.

A narrowing road is what we are all on. Wen explained that he left the mainstream to become an activist because he has children who are 8 and 12 years old. It struck me that these are the people for whom all of us should be truly heeding this call to act against climate crisis because although people in their 50s, 60s and older will continue to see unprecedented sea levels and more and more storms like Super Sandy, we will be gone by 2050 when the !&!%$ hits the fan.

If my nieces and nephews have children, they will be lucky if the only effect on them is to hear news reports of chronic worldwide catastrophies. But they could be in the middle of them. The analogy is the relative reprieve western Pennsylvania got with a week of steady rain while millions of people lost power, tens of thousands lost their homes and hundreds lost their lives further east.

But Pittsburgh can't be safe forever.

When will hundreds and thousands and millions of people dying in droughts, hurricanes, wildfires, floods and famines begin to feel like a crisis to society as a whole? Will we be able to realize it when panic affects global peace to the degree that the world is in its death throes?

A call to action like this will be scoffed at by many, I know. Too many SUVs going at tops speeds to believe otherwise. Wen talks about this. Asked if he might be a little close to this story, he said it is not possible for anyone to be too close to it at this point.

Here I am, a neighborhood reporter trying to stay on top of stories that affect Pittsburgh's neighborhoods, toiling in the mainstream media as honorably as I can, having to drive to a doctor's appointment, hoping I can emulate Wen in my small, local way as a journalist, believing, as he does, that advocating for action to avert a disaster is appropriate as a journalist, that being on top of this story is no less important than following the money or the political rhetoric or the lurid e-mails of paramours or deaths in a tragedy.

In fact, it is more important. It is about the future of life as we know it.


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