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Shy America

For the boisterous reputations that Americans have globally, we have turned incredibly quiet on the oil and the climate change debate. Was it just me, or did the 2008 election have some focus on climate change and COP 16? I can remember even G.O.P. candidate John McCain calling for some action towards pollution and the environment. I can remember when COP 16 was to be look upon as a turining point in global history. Where is this talk and passion now and when did Americans become so timid?Serious environmental talk has completely left the floor of congress. We can blame the failing housing market, a huge Wall Street bailout or a massive government deficit. But can this honestly be the case? Where do our interest lie and is the media doing all it can to analyze the public interest, or is it a megaphone for a private agenda?

Founding father and influential economist James Madison stated that the media is essential to a free country. “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives” (Madison 1822). The media’s role is to protect and deliver that knowledge – to arm the people with knowledge that allows them to analyze the public interest and make decisions based on that interest. It would seem to me that a changing climate – one that will undoubtedly cause economic, social and environmental catastrophes – would be in the public’s best interest to take arms against through learning how this climate change is occurring and what its effects are.

However, New York Times environmental blogger Elisabeth Rosenthal states in her Sunday opinion page that the number of Americans who believe the earth is warming dropped to 59 percent last year from 79 percent in 2006, according to Pew Research Group. Is the mass media presenting “expert” scientists who are disproving climate change? Who are disputing the evidence of a warming atmosphere? A rising ocean?

The answer is no. The mass media is simply not talking and allowing public service leaders to get away with comments such as, “there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they have dollars rolling into their pockets…daily, scientists are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is causing climate change.” Queue in GOP Presidential hopeful Rick Perry. Ironically, Governor Perry’s campaign to the White House has received nearly over $1,800,000 in contributions from the Energy Sector and the Oil & Gas Industry.

Wake up. In 2007, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a synthesis report for policymakers on the climate change. It states that the “warming of the climate system is unequivocal.” The report continues by stating “global GHG emissions due to human activities have grown since pre-industrial times…atmospheric concentrations of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide have increased markedly as a result of human activities.” Human activity is causing massive shifts in the world’s climate – the world has accepted this, however Americans have not. Why?

Because the media is failing to arm the public with the knowledge to govern. Media outlets are so concentrated now that the public interests are forgotten, and private interests are brought to the forefront. The classic example is General Electric, who owns 49% of NBC Universal and remains one of the largest oil and gas providers globally. GE has a megaphone in hand, holding hostage a mass media outlet and providing daily news about how drilling for oil domestically can lead us out of an economic crisis – no wonder environmental talk has left Washington. The environmental debate on drilling for oil has turned into one of economics, promoting a private agenda where environmental and social health effects are worthwhile costs.

President Abraham Lincoln stated that government is, “of the people, by the people, for the people.” This practice is reversing back to theory and the people will be the “costs”.