Green-Media: Sensationalising Science for a Profit.

A few years ago, when I was beginning to establish my professional career, I mingled with a diverse group of people – from active ecological researchers to business leaders and policy designers. Back then, before the 4th IPCC report really made much waves, my main concern was “Greenwashing”.

With all that the data was telling us about habitat loss, overexploitation, climate change and pollution, I found myself in a mix of activity, innovation and a certain amount of spin. Everything was being retitled to start with “eco” and refaced in green. The posters on biodiversity, with strange but beautiful frogs or ancient forests were ripped down and replaced with green fields of long grass, with giant white wind turbines standing at attention against a rich blue sky. Somehow the market had re-envisioned itself, after years of appalling environmental management and now it entirely replaced what we saw as the natural world.

As much as this concerned me, I had my foot in the door and hoped, as time went by, I could help to channel some of this “good intention” into real world benefit. Alas, the door became redundant and others proved more viable and so I moved back into research and monitoring.

Over the last couple of years, a lot has changed. Much of the more ridiculous greenwashing seems to have disappeared and renewable and recyclable technology rely on more realistic expectations to sell rather than the previous sensationalism. It’s almost like greentech explosion never really occurred.

It seems that my fear that greenwashing technology would hijack genuine initiative to develop increasingly sustainable practices was unfounded. You would think I’d be relieved…

However, I suspect that the eco-fad undermined the evidence based reality, because it promised a wonder drug that would fix all our problems with little to no effort – just some investments. Of course, it would never have been so easy or we certainly  wouldn’t be where we are today and I wouldn’t be blogging.

More importantly, I’ve come to realise a more insidious side-effect of genuine scientific concern that profits greater (at a personal level) than greenwashing ever could have. This is the “Green-pop-media” market. Since the 4th IPCC report, so many books have been written on the “truth of climate change” and even more again since the non-event “Climategate”. I suspect every non-technical person whom I’ve talked with on various comment threads that refer to themselves as a “climate sceptic” has read at least one “climate sceptic” book – the most common in recent months seems to have been Air Con (Ken gives it a fitting review here). Some even inform me that they too plan to write a book on the subject and I’ve already spoken on Donna Laframboise’s soon to be released book, Decoding the Climate Bible: Almost nothing you’ve heard about the UN’s uber report is true. Without a doubt, the non-technical and heavily sensationalised climate subject is a positively booming industry, with would-be authors falling over themselves to sell the next trash read to anyone hungry for gossip.

What is worse, is when this nonsense is turned into a film.

What got me thinking about this was a recent post by MT, Cool It Your Own Self. Here, he discusses a new movie (sorry, at best it’s a Mockumentary), Cool It, featuring Bjorn Lomborg, which seems at best to be an act of self-praise.

The foreboding music; the angry establishment; the hints of conspiracy and secret plots; ‘one man against the machine’; it has all the hallmarks of a blockbuster thriller. My only hope is that they have time to uncover the reality of Area 51 and the Apollo moon landings while they’re at it.

The cast include the usual propagators of doubt, but most disturbingly, as others commented on in MT’s post, the late Schneider seemingly wanting to shut Lomborg up. It’s not the first time Schneider’s quotes have been used against him (out of context), but that it’s done on the man now that he is unable to defend himself is sickening.

Unfortunately scandals sell and there are those who crave attention and lust for money enough to spin reality on its head and this new movie simply panders to this market niche, much the same as the sensationalised climate literature discussed above. What makes it worse, however, is that this movie has far greater reaching ability than literature – it can reach a far less critical audience.

There’s no doubt Lomborg will make a healthy profit out of this venture, but he does it at greater cost to the rest of us than just the price of a movie ticket.

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