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Green Is the New Yellow: On the excesses of "green" journalism.  

2007-07-09 18:19:34|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Green Is the New YellowOn the excesses of"green" journalism.

By Jack Shafer
Posted Friday, July 6,2007, at 4:21 PM ET

Green Is the New Yellow: On the excesses of green journalism. - liblog - Liblog 第九传媒Yellow journalism now comes in a new color:green.

Often as sensationalistic as its yellow predecessor, greenjournalism tends to appeal to our emotions, exploit our fears, andpander to our vanity. It places a political agenda in front of thequest for journalistic truth and in its most demagogic formstolerates no criticism, branding all who question it as enemies ofthe people.

Not all green journalism harangues, but even the gentlestvariety sermonizes, cuts logical corners, and substitutes goodintentions for problem solving. For an example of creepy gentlegreen journalism, there's no better example than the"Slate GreenChallenge," a series thatSlate started publishing last fall inconjunction with TreeHugger.org.


Green Is the New Yellow: On the excesses of green journalism. - liblog - Liblog 第九传媒

I've got no fundamental quarrel with TreeHugger. They'repropagandists who are "dedicated to drivingsustainability into the mainstream" and don't really pretend to bejournalists. My bitch is that Slate,which ought to know better, boarded the trendy greenwagon topublish the group's flawed, if well-meaning, guide to reducingcarbon dioxide from one's "diet."

Now, don't get me wrong. Carbon emissions may indeed be causingharmful climate change, and dramatic reductions by Americans mayactually do some good. But in typical green journalism fashion, thefeel-good TreeHugger copy gives equal emphasis to reducing yourairline travel and installing an aerating shower head in yourbathroom. (Carbon saving from canceling that New York to LosAngeles roundtrip: about a ton. Installing new shower head: about athimble.)

There's not much in theTreeHugger-Slate package we haven't hearda million times since the first oil embargo: Install storm windows.Insulate. Weather strip. Keep the furnace settings low and the ACsettings high. Turn things off. Buy energy-efficient appliances andcars. Avoid unnecessary trips. Carpool. Don't waste. But that's notgood enough for the green worshippers at TreeHugger, whoseaesthetic is ascetic. The series counsels readers todecarbonize by resisting new purchases of cotton clothes—unless ofthe organic variety—and to seek fibers made of hemp, bamboo,ramie, linen, silk, and lyocell (wood pulp). In greenifying Christmas, onemust give up the carbon gluttony of Xmas cards, Xmas wrappingpaper, Xmas trees, and electrified Xmas decorations. "If you'redecorating with candles, choose the ones made from soy wax orbeeswax," the article seriously advises. And, if you must eat,TreeHugger says, eatlocally and organically, and avoid processed food and meat.

Slate isn't the only victim ofgreen-brain disease. The malady swept through the New YorkTimes Magazine in May as it published a feature on the gloriesof an experimental solar-hydrogen house "that might very wellchange our lives forever." The piece read great until aless-than-worshipful letter writer caught up with the magazine twoweeks later. Using hydrogen as an energy-storage medium iswasteful, A.R. Martin wrote to the magazine. "For every 100kilowatts of electricity produced by the solar cells, only about 40kilowatts is recovered from the hydrogen fuel cell. By contrast, asmuch as 80 kilowatts could be recovered from a storagebattery."

The entertainment press corps genuflected in Hollywood this yearwhen the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences staged a"carbon neutral" Oscars ceremony. The academy accomplished the featby paying the carbon-offset service TerraPass, which in turn payslandfills, foresters, and others to reduce greenhouse gases. InMarch, Business Week removed theeco-glitter of offsets with a feature, writing, "When traced totheir source, these dubious offsets often encourage climateprotection that would have happened regardless of the buying andselling of paper certificates. One danger of largely symbolic dealsis that they may divert attention and resources from more expensiveand effective measures."

Equally skeptical of the carbon credits has been theFinancial Times. "Companies andindividuals rushing to go green have been spending millions on'carbon credit' projects that yield few if any environmentalbenefits," the newspaper reported in April. Another brilliantFT piece cites several academic studies toshow that imported foodstuffs aren't necessarily the carbon bombsthat "localvores" make them out to be. The piece speculates thatthe car ride back from the grocery store might be the mostcarbon-intensive part of a fruit, vegetable, or leg of lamb'sjourney from farm to pantry. Compare this with the TreeHuggercatechism inSlate, which holds that "there's noquestion that eating locally grown foods and shopping at yourfarmers' market help reduce CO2 emissions by cutting down ontransport."

I don't mean to suggest all greenies are well-meaning dolts orpropagandists. Some possess all the skepticism of their moreenlightened brothers and sisters in the capitalist press. Thetroublemakers at the Center for Media and Democracy, for example,point to dozens of examples of "greenwashing," which they defined as the "unjustifiedappropriation of environmental virtue by a company, an industry, agovernment or even a non-government organization to sell a product,a policy" or rehabilitate an image. In the center's view, manyenterprises labeled green don't deserve the name. If only a certainonline magazine were so skeptical.

******

Seen a rotten example of green journalism lately? Or a goodexample of de-greening journalism? Send the links to me atSlate's readers' forum, in a futurearticle, or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise.Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned bythe Washington Post Co.)

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