Thursday, August 03, 2006

Climate Porn....Does This Turn You On?

Are headlines describing climate change disasters pornography? According to the BBC they are.

This interesting piece recently ran on their website, alleging that by focusing on the most horrific and extreme climate change impacts and forecasts, the media is engaging in 'climate porn', a tactic of playing up the most alarming images of global warming in order to sell newspapers.

But.....there is a mismatch of scale; a conclusion with which Solitaire Townsend, MD of the sustainable development communications consultancy Futerra, agrees.

"The style of climate change discourse is that we maximise the problem and minimise the solution," she said.

"So we use a loud rumbling voice to talk about the challenge, about melting ice and drought; yet we have a mouse-like voice when we talk about 'easy, cheap and simple' solutions, making them sound as tiny as possible because we think that's what makes them acceptable to the public.

Although this is accurate on a surface level, Ms. Townsend places the blame in the wrong place. Small scale solutions are not offered because they are "what is acceptable to the public". It is a deferring tactic by those in power.

The media by its nature is beholden to corporations and other well financed interests, to which it relies on for advertising revenue and for news content. Articles that outline solutions on the same scale as the climate change threat - solutions like aggressive mileage standards, carbon taxes, and mandatory co2 reduction targets - would not serve the interests of the most powerful business leaders and the politicians whom they finance.

The result is that the buck is passed onto consumers and citizens. Governments hand out small scale solutions like Halloween candy so that people will feel just good enough about the problem to no make a fuss while our decision makers continue to commit our society to policies of energy inefficiency and waste that serve only to ensure the profits of large automobile manufactures and fossil fuel suppliers.

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