For our year-end show, on December 30, 2013, Gary LaMaster and Dick Searle joined Democratic Perspective co-hosts Mike Cosentino and Steve Williamson to discuss the stories that were unreported, under-reported or misreported in 2013.
There were an abundance of candidates: The falsehoods regarding the attack on the Benghazi consulate, mainstream media’s reluctance to report the successes of the Affordable Care Act, the failure to report the consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision to eviscerate part of the Voting Rights Act, bogus comparisons of our economy with the Greek economy in order to justify spending cuts, the fact that President Obama has cut the deficit faster than any previous president, the supposed fraudulent use of food stamps, the incomplete story of the failure of Solyndra, etc., etc., etc.
However, we chose to spend most of the show discussing the media’s failure to accurately cover the ongoing destruction of our environment. Yes, the media did report the debate over climate change (controversy is good for ratings). But they provided almost no context and they failed to address the extent of environmental destruction.
For example, did you know that the US has 5 percent of the world’s population but consumes 30 percent of the world’s resources? Since the other 95 percent of the world’s population aspires to our lifestyle, it’s impossible to imagine a scenario in which that’s sustainable. That information has almost never been addressed by our mainstream media.
Given the dirth of reporting, you’re likely unaware that the US has resumed the granting of permits for deepwater oil drilling. (Given our experience with Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico, what could possibly go wrong?) Likewise, there was little coverage of the race between nations to claim drilling rights to oil under the Arctic Ocean now that large expanses of Arctic ice have made it possible. Similarly, there have been few news stories about the potential effect of fracking on the aquifers supplying our drinking water.
How many stories have you seen or heard about the consequences of mining Canadian tar sands oil? Do you know that it takes as much energy to extract it as we will get from it; that there is no known technology to clean up spills of such oil; or that a by-product of refining tar sands oil is a particularly toxic dust?
Did you know that, as of 2008, 2.1 million acres of Appalachia (an area nearly twice the size of Rhode Island) had been destroyed by the surface mining of coal; that 500 mountains had been impacted or destroyed by so-called mountaintop removal; that over 1,000 miles of streams have been filled and polluted?
And it’s not just the extraction industries that are compromising our environment.
The Endangered Speciies Protection Act is currently under assault. Chemical companies have diminished the diversity and genetically modified much of our food supply. They have created pesticides linked to bee colony collapse syndrome. An over-reliance on chemical fertilizers leads to rainwater run-offs that have poisoned our streams and created a dead zone at the mouth of the Mississippi in the Gulf of Mexico is now 5,800 square miles. Additionally, humans continue to clear rain forests in order to plant crops despite the knowledge that these lands will be depleted within a few years. As a result, we’ve lost more than half of the world’s rain forests and the remaining rain forests could be consumed in the next 40 years! One and a half acres are lost every second!
With our economy built on the number of housing starts, the construction industry has contributed to the destruction of farmlands, forests, even deserts. The resulting buildings contribute nearly 40 percent of all greenhouse gases and use roughly the same percent of energy. At the same time, coal-fired electric power plants are being built around the globe in record numbers.
Our reliance on beef for our meat-heavy diet has not only contributed to the release of methane which contributes to climate change, it is highly inefficient. Raising corn-fed fat cattle requires more nutrition from plant-based organisms than we obtain from the meat. Yet it’s estimated that global meat consumption could double by 2050. Worse, beef production consumes roughly 7 times more water than raising soybeans and more than 10 times the amount of water used for wheat.
Our transportation industry is another big contributor to climate change through its reliance on diesel truck engines. Trucks fueled by natural gas are up to 90 percent cleaner and quieter, and rail is roughly 5 times more efficient than trucks.
Finally, population growth will put even more stress on our planet. In 1960, the world’s population numbered 3 billion. Today, it’s more than 7 billion, and it’s estimated to reach 9 billion by 2040. The positive news is that the rate of growth is declining, but it won’t reach zero for many decades. By that time, the population could be well over 10 billion. And if they all want to consume resources like Americans, we’ll need 4 or 5 more planets like Earth.
Given the scope and severity of environmental destruction, is it any wonder that the media fails to report it? (It would be bad for advertising.) Yet it doesn’t have to be depressing. Repairing our environment actually presents a wealth of opportunities. So climb down off that ledge and read The Great Disruption by Paul Gilding.
You may be pleasantly surprised by what you learn…things that the media will likely never tell you. Happy New Year from everyone at Democratic Perspective!