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Is Green the New Yellow?

Slate's Jack Shafer thinks "Yellow journalism now comes in a new color: green."

Often as sensationalistic as its yellow predecessor, green journalism tends to appeal to our emotions, exploit our fears, and pander to our vanity. It places a political agenda in front of the quest for journalistic truth and in its most demagogic forms tolerates no criticism, branding all who question it as enemies of the people.

FantasiaWHT:
Environmentalism = the "religious" left.

I love this point:


There's not much in the TreeHugger-Slate package we haven't heard a million times since the first oil embargo: Install storm windows. Insulate. Weather strip. Keep the furnace settings low and the AC settings high. Turn things off. Buy energy-efficient appliances and cars. Avoid unnecessary trips. Carpool. Don't waste. But that's not good enough for the green worshippers at TreeHugger, whose aesthetic is ascetic. The series counsels readers to decarbonize by resisting new purchases of cotton clothes—unless of the organic variety—and to seek fibers made of hemp, bamboo, ramie, linen, silk, and lyocell (wood pulp). In greenifying Christmas, one must give up the carbon gluttony of Xmas cards, Xmas wrapping paper, Xmas trees, and electrified Xmas decorations. "If you're decorating with candles, choose the ones made from soy wax or beeswax," the article seriously advises. And, if you must eat, TreeHugger says, eat locally and organically, and avoid processed food and meat.


The difference between the two lists is that the first is just smart ways to save both money and energy. The second is a great way to spend more money and have a negligible (if any) effect on energy consumption.

I honestly believe that the reason behind this hysteria from the environmentalists is that they're losing clout. We've cleaned up our land, our waters, and our air, and they've run out of real things to complain about, so they have to make up new scares.
7.13.2007 12:47pm
EH:
Often as sensationalistic as its yellow predecessor, green journalism tends to appeal to our emotions, exploit our fears, and pander to our vanity. It places a political agenda in front of the quest for journalistic truth and in its most demagogic forms tolerates no criticism, branding all who question it as enemies of the people.

What is supposed to be the difference between this green journalism and other forms of journalism, particularly war reporting? I'd hate to think that the only form of self-criticism the notoriously solipsistic fourth estate is to marginalize its smallest component.
7.13.2007 1:16pm
p. rich (mail) (www):
Hysteria and narcissism are popular states among the emotionally retarded, leading logically to smug green radicals.
7.13.2007 1:24pm
Mark Field (mail):
Paging Dave....

I just know he's going to show up sooner or later.
7.13.2007 1:28pm
Francis (mail):
Carbon saving from canceling that New York to Los Angeles roundtrip: about a ton. Installing new shower head: about a thimble

right. I love uncited numbers.

now, multiply the number of people in LA, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura and San Diego counties (which are south of the Tehachapi mountains) by the amount of water each saved per year with the low-flow showerhead, and plug THAT number into the energy budgets for the power plants used to lift the water out of the Bay Delta into the California Aqueduct, and then over the Tehachapis into southern California.

It's a hell of a lot more than a thimble.

There's a lot wrong with greenwashing. But there's a lot of bad counterpoint journalism, like the Shafer article. One standard problem is ignoring the benefits of small changes by large numbers of people. How many people fly from LA to NY every year? How many trips can be cut by making the public aware of the problems of greenhouse gas emissions? In contrast, how much energy can be saved by Gov. Schwartzenegger going on NPR and talking about insisting that his kids take shorter showers?
7.13.2007 2:18pm
Fub:
FantasiaWHT wrote at 7.13.2007 11:47am:
I honestly believe that the reason behind this hysteria from the environmentalists is that they're losing clout. We've cleaned up our land, our waters, and our air, and they've run out of real things to complain about, so they have to make up new scares.
More generally, it's a failure-prone stage readily observable in reform movements throughout history: they become trapped in the quest for absolute perfection. Some recover and develop a sort of collective common sense, and some don't.

The root cause is forgetting or denying a generic ninety-ten rule: that solving 90% of a problem requires only 10% of available resources, but solving the remaining 10% will require the remaining 90% of resources.

Environmentally, America is now approximately at that stage. We have eliminated the vast majority of environmental harms that existed 50 years ago, at what is arguably a tolerable expense. To eliminate every other possible harm will require increasingly intolerable costs.

Literalist nitpickers can quibble about relative percentages, and the meaning of costs and resources, whether economic costs, costs of limiting liberties, or any other costs. But the general principle is one which all reformers, including environmental reformers, too often imperil their cause by ignoring or denying.
7.13.2007 2:39pm
loki13 (mail):
So....

Does thie mean that Adler is going to convince Lindgren to extend Jack Shaffer an award for his excellent coverage of the Vietnam Veteran spitting stories?

Jack doesn't know Jack, except when he's attacking the Greens? Or is this a case of a stopped clock being right twice a day? I'd like to know.
7.13.2007 3:03pm
FantasiaWHT:
Interesting principle, Fub, I hadn't thought about that before!
7.13.2007 3:14pm
Rich Rostrom (mail):
"Yellow" journalism had no goal other than to sell newspapers, by hitting the public with the most sensational headlines possible, regardless of topic. "Green" journalism pushes a specific agenda. The only parallel is that "greens" and "yellows" both stretch the truth to get "hotter" stories.
7.13.2007 3:20pm
Bottomfish (mail):
now, multiply the number of people in LA, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura and San Diego counties (which are south of the Tehachapi mountains) by the amount of water each saved per year with the low-flow showerhead, and plug THAT number into the energy budgets for the power plants used to lift the water out of the Bay Delta into the California Aqueduct, and then over the Tehachapis into southern California.

Once the low-flow showerhead is installed, the next logical step would be to take fewer showers. They produce a lot of water vapor, which is more of a greenhouse gas than CO2. People would need to get used to their own odor. It's natural, isn't it?
7.13.2007 5:49pm
autolykos:
Fub:

I think you're generally correct as to the principle but would respectfully disagree as to where we are in the process. IMO there's still a lot of low-hanging fruit out there, most of which falls into the category of things that require up front investment but yield net cost savings (not just through externalities) over time. I'd throw things like CFLs and solar panels in this category.

There's no reason every suburban home in this country shouldn't have solar panels on the roof. For some reason (either reluctance to make the upfront investment, neighborhood restrictions, fear of incurring maintenance costs, etc.) we haven't done that. Increasing environmental awareness could go a long way towards moving us further down the path.

That, of course, won't be enough for many of these environmentalists, but...well, I don't really care what they think anyway.
7.13.2007 6:44pm
Fub:
autolykos wrote at 7.13.2007 5:44pm:
IMO there's still a lot of low-hanging fruit out there, most of which falls into the category of things that require up front investment but yield net cost savings (not just through externalities) over time. I'd throw things like CFLs and solar panels in this category.

There's no reason every suburban home in this country shouldn't have solar panels on the roof. For some reason (either reluctance to make the upfront investment, ...

While I certainly wouldn't argue that there is no low hanging fruit, my vague recollection of solar panel cost relative to utility costs is that solar panel deployment isn't one of them.

IIRC, roughly a buck per watt capital investment is the sweet spot where solar panel payback will match current retail utility rates, ie: install solar panels and you will pay for electricity what you pay now. I forget the amortization period but it was reasonable. But solar panels are considerably more costly than that currently.

I believe that some states have given tax breaks or credits to homeowners to make up part of that difference. But with that artifice somebody is still paying the difference, just not the homeowner with the panels.

But, my recollection may be incorrect. I'm not an expert, and ballpark numbers fluctuate.
That, of course, won't be enough for many of these environmentalists, but...well, I don't really care what they think anyway.
It's the "won't be enough" part that I was originally addressing, and on that we agree.
7.14.2007 1:23am
johnnyxel (mail):
Hmm...

The difference between the two lists is that the first is just smart ways to save both money and energy. The second is a great way to spend more money and have a negligible (if any) effect on energy consumption.


The second part of the list includes items like: don't buy christmas trees and/or lights, and to buy organic and preferably locally grown foods.
Locally grown foods are typically cheaper than supermarket prices (in markets with which I am familiar), and there can be no argument about processed foods being more expensive than actually cooking. How does not buying something (and not paying extra power bills), cost more money and produce negligible benefit? These things are simple cost savings combined with lifestyle choice (I haven't had a christmas tree in years and it has only made my January light bill cheaper). What about that is offensive?
More pointedly: if you want to have an ethical libertarian society, we as individuals have to make correct choices based on efficiency and economy. Guidance on methods to making those choices personally should not be met with such venom by the personal choice crowd. On the other hand, proposed legislation forcing you to buy locally-grown certified-organic peaches should make you want to commit an active of rhetorical violence. See the difference?

The root cause is forgetting or denying a generic ninety-ten rule: that solving 90% of a problem requires only 10% of available resources, but solving the remaining 10% will require the remaining 90% of resources.

So we have the ability to solve 90% of 10 problems before we run out of resources? The link is completely unrelated to your point. Yes, there are diminishing returns (with everything, I guess), but this doesn't pass the test: sure you cleaned your room last week, but Mom's telling you to do it now. Conservation is a mental habit, not something you do once and forget about.
7.15.2007 11:52am