Friday, June 22, 2012

Climate Change and Silent Spring - A Media Relationship?

Frank Graham Jr., field editor of Audubon magazine, marks the 50th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s classic book, Silent Spring, by examining the vitriolic attacks leveled against Carson in the 1960s and pointing to troubling parallels with the assaults on climate scientists today. Critics from industry and agriculture dismissed Carson as a mouthpiece of “a vociferous, misinformed group of nature-balancing, organic-gardening, bird-loving, unreasonable citizenry.” But as Graham notes, Carson’s groundbreaking analysis of the harmful effects of DDT and other pesticides led to important bans on dangerous chemicals. Read the article.  This was published as an intro to a Yale Environment online blog.

It is sobering to think of the effects that Silent Spring has had over the past 50 years.  From distaste and absolute rejection by many initially, to now generally accepted as mainstream science, and bringing some big changes in environmental behaviours.

As the author alludes, is the current rejection of much of the science of climate change essentially the same?

I am not so sure, as we have had in the past 50 years the creation of media "thought leaders" [ or should it be media d***heads" ] who have significant influence over much of public opinion, and at times who espouse some strange causes.  Where they have influence, dispute over views often rules.  Then there is the rise of instant experts without specialised training or considerable experience in the science areas who cloud ideas, and pander to those who are tending to disbelieve the science.  And then there is inertia, NIMBY thinking and the long time frames for effect........remember "Apathy Rules".

The role of the media is far greater today than when Silent Spring was published.  I am not sure we have yet seen any serious embrace of the results of scientific endeavour on climate change in mainstream media, to really convince the public, although the scientific media certainly has.  And with much of the public disinterested and as yet unaffected, change might be slow for some time.

In Australia as elsewhere, with various forms of carbon pricing either in place or coming very soon, then will that influence public attitudes, or will they just whinge and not adjust?  

No comments: