By: Betsy Rosenberg
This is not a piece about God, or should I perhaps write “G-d,” as we Jews are taught to spell it out of reverence. And it’s not really about the late Queen Elizabeth II and her 70-year reign, or the now King Charles III. But rather, it’s about how 10 days-plus of over-the-top television coverage of the British Royal family sucked up nearly all the air—or airtime—while important news about our planet-in-peril was mostly ignored (as usual) by the major news networks.
It’s been 3 months since the Queen’s passing on September 8th, and presumably, life in the UK is returning to normal, even with the sudden changing of the guard, or Prime Ministers. Perhaps it’s just as well the Queen did not live to see the latest political and economic upheaval befalling our British brethren.
During what seemed like an eternity--between the time the clearly beloved Queen died peacefully and was laid to rest after a rare state funeral in London, American news networks--especially the cable channels--provided seemingly wall-to-wall coverage of her passing and extended procession, and transfer of the crown to Charles, as if living to almost 100 after a very full life of service, was a tragedy. The outpouring of sadness and solemnity that followed—in the UK and beyond—was notable, but still did not warrant such saturation coverage for days on end, in my view.
During that mourning period, the UK’s national anthem transitioned from “God Save the Queen” to “God Save the King.” But with the world’s attention focused on Elizabeth and Charles, Fiona was largely overlooked by the news media, beyond a few mentions. That is Hurricane Fiona—which hit Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the US Atlantic seaboard, wreaking havoc all the way up to southeastern Canada. More than 30 people died and damages—costing into the billions of dollars—will take years to recover from and rebuild.
Just a few weeks after the Queen was buried across the pond, Hurricane Ian took more than 125 lives in Florida and destroyed entire communities on Sanibel Island and in Ft. Myers. Damage totals from Ian’s wrath are estimated to be some $67 billion. While the television networks—where millions of Americans still get their news—did a more thorough job of covering Ian than Fiona, they mostly failed to connect the dots. According to Media Matters In America, climate change was even so much as mentioned in only 3 percent of the Ian coverage on the major TV news channels. That pathetic figure is consistent with overall climate coverage by the US networks. Even while they have somewhat gotten over their “climate silence,” and most do mention climate change a bit more often, it is not remotely enough. A Media Matters report found climate stories amounted to only 1 percent of all news TV coverage in 2021. Is it any wonder we’re not getting off our gasses anywhere near quickly enough? For more than 25 years, I have intensely watched this environmental “freight train” coming toward us. I repeatedly tried to get my industry, the broadcast and cable news networks, to better cover the destruction of our imperiled planet, alas with scant success. So, it is maddening beyond words to watch now, as the avoidable wreckage and human toll pile up—often on storm and fire victims who may not be well-informed on our worsening weather patterns. I can’t help but wonder how many disaster victims voted for Governors Ron DeSantis or Greg Abbott in Texas. Both states have been hard hit by extreme weather, yet their leaders deny or downplay the existential threat that is climate change. But back to the British Monarchy for a moment…I have nothing against it, since it’s not in my country, though I did get to meet Prince Charles, now King, when he was visiting the Bay Area to tour organic farms in West Marin many years ago. Because of my green media work, I was invited to meet him at a reception in San Francisco, where I had enough time standing in the receiving line to think of something quick, but original, to say. When the man who would be King someday got to me, I shook his hand and did a slight curtsy as was the protocol. When I said, “Prince Charles, so lovely to meet you, I am the Queen of Green.” He smiled from ear to royal ear and blushed. I thanked him for caring about our environment and urged him to continue speaking out about it, loudly and often.
Of course, he didn’t need my advice, his commitment to conservation, and in more recent years, climate change has been steady. What a shame it would be if he gave up on that interest, at least publicly. He stayed away from UN COP 27 because he was reportedly advised by UK’s 50-day-wonder PM Liz Truss that it would be too political or controversial. Ah balderdash, say I. The most conservative major parties—apparently in the U.K., as well as the one here in the U.S—politicized something that should never have been in the first place. One hopes this more modern monarchy will see the value in taking a “position”—that the planet, and humanity, are well worth saving, and will require real leadership for years to come. Certainly, the next in line—Prince William—has shown his dedication to environmental causes in many ways.
So if G-d saved the Queen for 96 years, and long live King Charles, the most important entity to save now is not a person at all, but rather nature. Without that, there is no healthy future for anyone, including our four-legged friends.
We’ll know the news media finally gets that when they cover ecological degradation—and what to do about it—the way they covered the COVID-19 pandemic, or the Queen’s passing—as if it were the most important story in the world–because it is. G-d Save the Green. Or we shall perish. But we must do a lot more than pray for a planet that now holds 8 billion humans. This effort will take all of us.
Photo Credit: CBS News
Betsy Rosenberg is a longtime environmental journalist, and former reporter for KCBS Radio in San Francisco and the CBS Radio News network in New York City. For the past several decades, Betsy has blazed a trail by creating a green beat in broadcasting to help raise awareness and motivate the greater public to take positive planetary action every day. Betsy joined GreenTV as co-founder and Chief Content Creator in 2021, where she hosts her series “Meet the Solutionaries."