Skip to content

Reporting on new products while the world burns: US media and global warming

April 18, 2012

“The Earth is news.”                         Line from Wendell Berry poem The Morning’s News

As I write this, we are just days away from Earth Day 2012. The annual celebration has become an increasingly more problematic one as global capitalism has co-opted much of the public celebrations and public opinion about how we avert a major ecological crisis.

This celebration of global capitalism as the only route to ecological sustainability is the primary message we get from US media. The role of the US media has been startling in its role as a cheerleader of greenwashing and green capitalism in numerous ways.

First, the US commercial media has played a significant role on how the public views climate change. The US media not only gives those who deny climate change equal time on the issue, they also have been reporting less on global warming in recent years.

Second, the commercial media in the US has failed the public miserably by not reporting on the growing international movement for climate justice. This failure means that fewer people are aware of the critical aspects of climate justice globally and the ways in which millions of people have been resisting global warming and the capitalist system of environmental degradation that drives the ecological crisis we face.

Third, the commercial media in the US gives voice to the growing segment of green capitalists who want to convince us all that simply buying the right products will save us from long-term environmental catastrophe. This form of “consumer activism” is not only deceptive, it continues to justify an economic system that is motivated by profits and perpetual growth. Think of the media coverage that celebrates the whole electric car production and sales in Michigan. Granted, the commercial media coverage also believes the expansion of an electric car market will create jobs and provide relief to the state’s economy, even though there is no evidence that this will occur.

Fourth, US commercial media is dependent on hyper-consumerism. Most media sources rely on advertizing, which not only limits their interest in reporting on the ecological consequences of the market system, it means they are a perfect conduit to promote the latest products that are collectively contributing to the destruction of eco-systems, the polluting of water, the contamination of the soil and the extinction of more and more species on a daily basis. The commercial media in the US is dependent on advertising because they operate as for-profit entities that need to make their shareholders happy, no matter the cost to the environment.

Lastly, the commercial media in the US generally ignores efforts by people to present an alternative to green capitalism. It is easy to find news stories on new products, companies receiving green awards or people engaged in mild reformist actions on behalf of the planet, but when do you see news coverage of people calling for a radical shift in economic and environmental policies? In Grand Rapids, the media waits with baited breath to report on Rick DeVos’ latest money making scheme (that is framed as providing opportunities to creative people), but there has been no reporting on efforts like Mutual Aid GR.

Mutual Aid GR is a project that promotes community through the bartering of goods and skills. Mutual Aid GR operates on the principle that the current economic system is not sustainable and that we need to live radically different if there is to be a viable future for humanity.

However, people sharing resources and skills does not make anyone rich, it doesn’t continue the exploitation of the planet and it doesn’t cause wars……..but hey, that isn’t news worthy now is it?


3 Comments leave one →
  1. April 18, 2012 9:22 pm

    Reblogged this on The Wobbly Goblin and commented:
    Add your thoughts here… (optional)

  2. April 19, 2012 10:25 pm

    GR gets all the pats on the back for the LEED certifications…which is all fine and good, I just wish the media could report how this is only a fraction of what needs to be addressed.

  3. robert permalink
    April 20, 2012 5:22 pm

    Is global warming real? A majority of glaciers world wide are shrinking.
    There is no way anyone can argue it is not from the previous statement.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: