Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Peak Oil Part III

There is a tragic story of a town house being on fire. The smoke detector went off the parents got up and went downstairs where a fire has started. The parents come downstairs with their young son. The child, seeing the fire, gets scared, escapes and runs upstairs and ducks under the bed and is killed in the fire. The media is like that child. We see the triple issues of peak oil, environmental degradation and depression, get scared and run and hide. And journalists aren’t the only one, politicians, businesses and individuals just don’t want to deal with this.

Your typical non specialized news media have general news reporters and specialized reporters for such things as sports, business, crime, health, entertainment and politics (federal, provincial/state and local). Totally ignored and considered optional at best is the environment, which includes energy. (In all fairness energy is also included in business, but there it is treated strictly in terms of money and growth.) Heck lotteries receive far more coverage than energy and the environment. Yet our economy and our very lives depend on a healthy environment and good supply of clean energy.

News tends to be framed in terms of whether it is good or bad for the economy, it’s impact on congestion, the number of jobs it will create and whether it promotes growth or not. Energy use is usually ignored and the environment, if considered at all, tends to be secondary to economic growth and jobs. Journalists, like most everyone else, put economic growth and job creation ahead of everything else, including our very lives. Basically short term thinking with no thought or care to the consequences of our behavior.

A good example of this is that auto shows are covered in depth, while bicycle shows, if covered at all, tend to be covered only briefly as form of recreation or entertainment. Another example boat shows also are covered in depth and while boats are recreation they’re big business. New and wider roads are primarily viewed in terms of their impact on congestion and on growth as well as how much they will cost. The underlying assumption is they’re good. The long term impact on energy and the environment is totally ignored.

I saw a technology piece on t. v. recently telling how, among other things, that we will soon be able to have our refrigerators communicate with us to tell us we’re out of milk, for example. The implication was that this was a good thing. No questioned otherwise or what its total impact would be.

When we want to journalists can do an excellent job of investigative reporting. Take for example Paul Bliss of CTV, who uncovered the Ornge scandal. Ornge, for those unfamiliar with it, is an Ontario air ambulance service and the scandal basically involved overspending. Bliss did an excellent job of uncovering and reporting on this. Now where are the Paul Blisses on energy and the environment?

In all fairness good reporting does take time, space and money. However, it also takes good imagination. If we change our priorities the time, space and money are there. It would mean cutting back on sports and entertainment, including stories about lotteries and recreation. Notice I said cut back, not cut out.

A good first step would be for the major media outlets to assign a reporter to cover energy and the environment. Another first step would be to start asking the hard hitting questions that need to be asked of things, like should we be doing this or that and what are the energy and environmental costs of doing or not doing something rather than just looking at the short term economic costs and benefits. It should also be a requirement for journalists to take courses on science, energy and the environment.

Other steps walk, bicycle and use public transit to get to and from work and on our jobs as much as possible. Where a car or a van is still required car share. Use motor vehicles that are as energy efficient as possible. Do what we can to make our homes and places of work as energy efficient and as easy on the environment as possible. All this helps our pocket books as well as helping ensure we’ll still be able to eat, drink and breath tomorrow.

We, as journalists and as a society, need to start putting life ahead of short term gain and pleasure, and we need to do it very soon.

Here’s a link to an update on an earlier blog on newspaper paywalls. Some newspapers are now removing them as being counter productive:
“Paywalls Come Tumbling Down”