By Betsy Rosenberg
This Earth Day marks the 52nd anniversary of the original, held on April 22, 1970, which I’m old enough to remember, though as a schoolgirl. That’s when I had my first eco-epiphany; that the grass I was sitting on at our outdoor assembly was the mother earth! Sounds silly because it’s so obvious but for some reason, it struck me as a profound “aha” moment that made me feel forever connected to nature.
But it would be two decades before I would identify as an environmentalist, after realizing how much the wasting of natural resources bothered me. In 1994 I turned my pet peeve into what would become a full-fledged passion and profession by launching a green radio feature called TrashTalk on the news station where I worked as a reporter. I’d grown disillusioned with covering breaking news—so fleeting and often depressing-- and my new husband helped me realize that I had endless “suggestions” on how to reduce waste, especially how he could stop wasting; whether it was water left on while shaving and brushing his teeth, or wire hangers from the dry cleaners he threw away rather than reuse. Or, as a lawyer, printing out not-so-brief- briefs on virgin paper!
Fast forward a few years and I became the “Martha Stewart of waste,” broadcasting hundreds of creative ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle, later adding refuse--to buy less--and rot, for composting. After several years of turning my distaste for waste into a radio feature, the focus went from garbage to global warming as my trashy minutes grew into an hour-long interview program on all shades of green news.
That was nearly two decades ago and I’ve spent many of those years independently producing programs with environmental leaders of all stripes. The more I learned the more I realized this was my calling, tapping into the experts to share their wisdom with the greater public. But when it came time to transition to television – for greater impact with visuals and to reach a larger mainstream audience--I hit a wall of resistance just as I had when approaching radio syndicators in prior years. Pitching, or trying to pitch, program executives on conservation and climate change content felt like Mission Impossible, so I became a “Woman on Emission” to break through what I call the green ceiling, which is twice as thick as the glass ceiling!
As the multiple ecological crises grew worse over the years the lack of climate coverage became ever more glaring—and galling. As our planet and ecosystems have shown consistent signs of decline scientists have increased their warnings and raised the volume. In the past year alone three IPCC (UN) reports concluded that it’s “Code red for humanity,” that “delay is death,” and it’s “now or never” to act if we are to avert cascading biosphere collapse. Given we have less than eight years, if that, to reduce our emissions by 50%, it's truly mind-bending that there is still no ongoing programming on how to do that anywhere on a major news platform. Why not?
While the amount of climate coverage has certainly increased, with the corporate-owned TV networks doing occasional stories on our changing climate and certainly mentioning it more during extreme weather events--and now during Earth Week-- the divide in proportional (to other news) coverage only grows wider. While the networks may have ended their “climate silence”, the coverage is now in the murmuring or whispering category when it needs to be a roar to get the public’s attention.
All along this journey—and the reason I started covering the green beat in the first place—is this inexplicable and unacceptable lack of climate and other environmental news. The cable channels normally have a parade of political commentators--nearly non-stop during elections--and medical experts throughout the pandemic. But where are the climate contributors? This green gap in the news has been a source of great puzzlement and deep frustration for myself, and so many others.
Why is the climate emergency not treated with the same urgency and focus as the Covid crisis given both are life and death issues and extreme weather and pollution have already killed more people than the pandemic?
Last year the big 3 news networks; NBC, CBS, ABC, (Fox doesn’t qualify as real news) devoted only one percent of all their coverage to climate change!
When proper press attention was put on the pandemic, and needed actions were advised and required, the world put on masks, socially distanced, and stayed home as much as possible. In 2019 nobody would have predicted that the world’s behavior could change, almost overnight
Similarly, widespread change and actions are now needed across the planet to protect our earth’s atmosphere, oceans, forests, wildlife, biodiversity, and all ecosystems that make up the web of life, aka Mother Nature. If fact-based information was delivered with appropriate urgency, regularity, and even a little emotion, we would see a sea change in public awareness and effective solutions.
Nobody and nothing can thrive on a planet on life support so why don’t we start acting as our lives depend on waking up to address this parallel crisis? Especially now that we know society--across cultures—IS capable of making changes when absolutely necessary and when properly communicated.
Our nation and world have scientists and experts across the environmental spectrum who are eager to share their wisdom and advice with the public. Given the daily dire warnings about our planet in peril, only a fraction of which are being covered in mainstream outlets, how can there be any justification for ignoring the biggest challenge of our times…especially after 52 Earth Days? Perhaps a consistent and comprehensive media focus on solutions is the key missing piece. This year why don’t we try something different? What do we have to lose? And to gain?
But we can’t wait for the news networks. They seem to think they’re now covering climate change when in fact it amounts to around one percent of their total coverage according to 2021 statistics from Media Matters. It’s a form of greenwashing when one considers how much of what’s happening to our planet is NOT being covered.
Instead, I’ve joined a committed team of volunteers at GreenTV.com and in doing so realized a dream to create copious amounts of compelling content that matters at a time when there are more folks than ever asking what they can do to help.
Please join our effort by subscribing to Green TV’s YouTube channel and inviting others to join so we can expand our content to meet the growing demand. Our aim is to be a one-stop-shop for informative and inspiring interviews with eco-solutionaries, with additional formats to come. We hope you agree that a perfect and precious planet is a terrible thing to waste. And if we’re going to cut our emissions in half, and aim for net-zero, there certainly isn’t one day to waste.