How to Act on Climate Change in a Post-Truth World

Shortly after President George W. Bush withdrew the United States from the Kyoto Protocol, longtime New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert decided it was time to get clear on the debate around global warming. “I thought, ‘Either this is a really big deal—in which case it’s being horrifically under-covered—or it isn’t, in which case we could forget about it,” Kolbert says. She set off to Alaska and Greenland, met with top atmospheric scientists, and quickly learned that the vast majority of scientists had arrived at a consensus: Our world was changing. Her resulting three-part series in 2005, “The Climate of Man,” took readers to the front lines of climate change and became the basis of a seminal tome on the topic: Field Notes From a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change(2006).

Field Notes galvanized conversations around climate action, policy, and research. It was also instrumental in creating Climate One, a San Francisco talk show aimed at engaging leaders from business, policy, advocacy, and academic circles in a conversation about stabilizing the earth’s climate and building a sustainable economy. (Founder Greg Dalton, a journalist, started Climate One after an interview with Kolbert prompted him to visit the Arctic and witness the changing climate for himself.) Since then, Kolbert published another influential book, the Pulitzer Award–winning The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (2014), which details why and how human beings have altered life on the planet in ways no species has before.

More than a decade after their first interview, Kolbert met with Dalton again last week at the Climate One headquarters, within the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco. She sat onstage alongside fellow veteran climate reporter Dave Roberts (formerly of Grist, now writing for Vox), for a televised conversation about environmental journalism in a post-truth world where climate-denialism is on the rise.

“We’ve already met the enemy, and he’s all of us,” Kolbert said during an interview with Sierra before the event. At the time, Maria was spinning toward Puerto Rico, and Texans and Floridians were still reeling from Harvey and Irma.

Sierra: In Field Notes From a Catastrophe, you discuss turbulent natural forces that have shaped previous human civilizations with a NASA scientist. You quote him saying, “We may say that we’re more technologically able than earlier societies. But one thing about climate change is it’s potentially geopolitically destabilizing. And we’re not only more technologically able; we’re more technologically able destructively as well.” Can you talk about the ways in which technology is helping humanity to address climate change, and the ways in which it isn’t?

Elizabeth Kolbert: Right now we’re sort of only addressing climate change through technology. It comes down to two schools of thought: One is that we can keep doing everything we’re doing now, just with different technologies. The other is that we’ll have to live differently, with maybe much less technology—that we can’t just solar-power everything and call it a day. I tend to fall into the “We can’t just keep doing what we’re doing but actually have to change the way we live” category, but then I also don’t have a mechanism to get from here to there.

In any case, right now I think it’s pretty clear that we’re only pursuing the former, tech-reliant strategy and that we’re not even pursuing that very accurately. I mean, look out on the street—most people are still driving cars with internal combustion engines, even here in California, which has done as much as any place in the United States. Nothing very dramatic has changed. So, I don’t know an answer.

The other point of that quote was that, really, at the end of the day—and this is sadly all too relevant right now—most major countries have nuclear weapons, and that if things get ugly, they’ll use them. At the time I wrote that, it seemed way out there, but now it doesn’t. So I think this nativist, national moment we seemed to be in is contributing to all sorts of potential crises around the globe—climate-related and not.

Read more at sierraclub.org

Photo credit: CLIMATE ONE

Can we discuss Climate Change in the Post-Truth World?

Australia is in the grips of ‘post truth’ phenomena

Gillian Triggs has said Australia is in the grips of the phenomena of “post truth” which compounds the problem of the overreach of executive power.
Giving the Michael Kirby Oration on Wednesday night at Victoria University, Professor Triggs said the idea of alternative facts which had credibility had created an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ world where words mean what we choose them to.

“This is what is increasingly concerning me particularly in the context of the current debate on marriage equality,” she said.

“The obfuscation of the truth, the failure to deal with the issues, to throw in great debating techniques and straw men and red herrings … are deeply troubling in an issue that should be lead by clear evidence-driven leadership through our politicians and senior members of the community.”

Professor Triggs said it was a “tragedy” that most Australians did not know enough about our system of government.

“We don’t have education in what might be described as ‘civics’,” she said.

“The basics of our democracy I think need to be taught at our schools, more clearly than they are, and more emphasis at our universities.”

She said there needed to be a focus on separation of powers, checks and balances and why Australia can’t have cabinet executive government assume a larger role to the detriment of parliament and the judiciary.

“I also believe it is time for us to revisit the work that’s already been done on the introduction of some legislative form of a bill of rights,” Professor Triggs said.

“I know very well there is very little political appetite for a bill of rights but it doesn’t mean that we should stop thinking about it.”

She said by creating the language of a bill of human rights across the country, people would be more aware when there was creeping legislation that in one way or another curtail those rights.

“I might note the paradox that the very people who have been demanding an end to identity politics, to political correctness, all want reform in anti-discrimination laws on race or sex, are the very same people who are now demanding new legislative protection on freedom of religion and freedom of speech,” she said.

Full story at: The Australian

Featured Image Credit: The Australian

Fighting the Normalization of Post-Truth Politics

Donald Trump’s rally speech in Phoenix on August 22 was full of falsehoods. The lack of outrage over his deceptive statements points to the normalization of post-truth politics, when appeals to personal beliefs and emotions wins out over objective facts. To avoid this normalization, we need to borrow the successful tactics of the environmental movement in dealing with the pollution of our environment.

 

During this speech, according to highly credible fact-checking organizations such as Factcheck.org and Politifact, Trump misled the audience as to his reaction to the Charlottesville violence, such as by neglecting to mention that he blamed “both sides.” He made false claims about the media, for instance that CNN’s ratings went down when they are rising, or that the media failed to report on Trump’s condemnation of racism, when they did. In the economic arena, he stated that wages “haven’t gone up for a long time,” when actually they’ve risen for at least the last three years. Another example of economic deception: Trump wrongly claimed that the US has “become an energy exporter for the first time ever just recently.”

 

Where is the outrage over these deceptions? This is our President, systematically sowing misinformation. Most of his falsehoods – such as the statement about the wages or CNN ratings – had been debunked earlier. Yet he kept repeating them, leaving no other interpretation than a deliberate intent to deceive, the dictionary definition of lying.

This lying is part of a broader pattern: Trump’s Politifact file shows an astounding 49 percent of his statements, are false. By comparison, his opponent in the US presidential election Hillary Clinton’s file shows that only 12 percent of her statements were false, 14 percent for the Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Despite Trump’s extremely high rate of deception, many still believe him. As an example, 44 percent of those polled believed his falsehoods about Obama wiretapping Trump Tower during the 2016 election campaign.

 

Thus, many will believe his Phoenix rally claims, despite debunking by fact-checkers. Unfortunately, 29 percent of the public, and only 12 percent of Trump supporters, trustfact-checkers. This mistrust enables Trump to pollute our politics with deception, undermining the trust so crucial to the political health of any democracy…

 

Read more on HuffPost

Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

 Is Fake News the New Norm?

Science journalists discuss communicating in a ‘post-truth’ world

A panel of journalists gathered in the Lory Student Center to discuss science journalism at a panel put on by the School of Global Environmental Sustainability.

The panel, titled “Communicating Science in a ‘Post-Truth World,” took place on Sept. 12. Four journalists joined a room full of academics, researchers, students and interested members of the community.

The panel consisted of Christopher Joyce, a science reporter at National Public Radio; Grace Hood, who works for Colorado Public Radio. Rachel Cernansky, an independent journalist and Jeff Burnside a Scripps Environmental Journalism Fellow.

Nancy Baron, the panel’s moderator began the discussion by asking, “How many of you really care about making this a better world?”

Everyone in the room stood up.

“This is something that scientists and journalists share: a passionate desire to make this world a better place,” Baron said after the attendees and the panelists sat back down.

According to Barren “post-truth” was Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year in 2016.

“The term has come to mean, ‘where objective facts and evidence can be lost in the noise generated by direct appeals to emotion and deeply held personal beliefs,’” Baron said.

According to Joyce, “post-truth” is not new.

“I’ve been covering science since the ’70s,” Joyce said. “I started in Washington, and I saw people on the left as much on the right ‘cherry-picking’ science. Everybody has an agenda.”

According to Hood, who has over 10 years of experience in journalism, her job became more difficult with the change in presidency.

“I would say (that) with the Trump Administration, one of the biggest challenges has been localizing stories,” Hood said. “I really found myself not trying to go for volume anymore but more (of) the contextual stories.

Read more at Collegian.com

Featured image credit: ISTOCKPHOTO/THINKSTOCK

Is it harder to communicate in a post-truth world?

Banner row has Hong Kong entering the post-truth era

Hong Kong may be entering a post-truth era, too. Scanning the websites and online forums of the opposition and those of pro-establishment circles over the past two weeks, you can hardly tell facts from rumours and conspiracy theories. The impression they give is that the only truths are those that accord with your own political stance.

The rows over offensive banners put up at several university campuses have been the catalyst, though things have been going downhill in this regard for a long time. One common conspiracy theory among radicals and activists is that the big poster congratulating Undersecretary for Education Christine Choi Yuk-lin on the suicide of her 25-year-old son was not put up by Education University students at all. Rather, outside forces used the poster as a “false-flag” operation to discredit the fight by student leaders for freedom of speech and the right to raise issues about Hong Kong independence on university campuses.

Meanwhile, not a few members of the pro-government camp have speculated that the same university students or others sympathetic to them – rather than nationalistic mainland students – put up campus banners, written in simplified characters, to celebrate the death of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia being under house arrest. This was to distract people from the row over the Christine Choi banner, which has put the student activists and their university union representatives in a terrible light.

Read more on South China Morning Post

Featured Image Credit: South China Morning Post

Is Hong Kong Entering the Post-Truth Era?

‘Post-truth’ media really is shifting the news agenda – and more subtly than it seems

“As stories of Russian “information warfare” in various Western countries continue to mount, governments, intelligence agencies and journalists are fretting over the influence of global media outlets funded by autocratic governments. But while these organisations are clearly meant to serve their sponsor governments’ agendas in various ways, is the West right to be so worried about them?

Information campaigning in various forms is as old as politics itself, and nor is it the sole province of political bogeymen. Research shows that democracies are better than autocracies at influencing foreign public opinion, and businesses, politicians and states all use the mass media strategically for their information campaigns.

Whether this is public relations, public diplomacy, or propaganda is a matter of perspective. But the names we give a particular information campaign not only reflect our inferences about its aims; they can in fact amplify its power and advance its goals.

A case in point is the Kremlin-funded international broadcaster RT, formerly Russia Today. The network has been sanctioned by media watchdogs for its “misleading” coverage, even as it gathered five Emmy nominations for its investigative reporting. It was even cited by Hillary Clinton in 2011 as an example of an “information war” she said the West was losing – unwittingly describing things to come in her own career.

The network’s PR strategy skilfully uses these criticisms to cater to the biases of an anti-establishment generation. Its motto encourages viewers to “Question More”, and its various advertising campaigns have successfully exhibited Western contempt and suspicion as a badge of honour.”

Read more at: theconversation.com 

Featured photo: Gil C via Shutterstock

Do you think we are engaged in an “information war” as Hillary Clinton describes?

 

“Basket of Deplorables” Riffs on Trump’s America

“A new collection of short stories by Tom Rachman considers privacy and cultural bubbles in a post-truth era.

The first sentence of Basket of Deplorables announces, “You can’t see me right now. Then again, I can’t see you either.” You can take the narrator, Georgina, literally: A recent head injury has left her blind, and adrift at a buzzing election-night party at a Tribeca loft where she feels increasingly alienated from the intellectuals, musicians, and n+1 editors in her social circle. But her statement applies to all five of Tom Rachman’s new stories, released on Audible in the U.S. and in book form in Britain and Australia. Set consciously in the current moment and a few years from now, the darkly satirical tales consider a broader kind of cultural myopia—one that afflicts conservatives and liberals alike.

There’s something inevitable, if not rote, in the first wave of cultural works responding to the Trump presidency. Most seem sprung from outrage or sheer incomprehension: “The nightmare is in high gear,” is how the playwright Tony Kushner described his in-progress play about Donald Trump to The Daily Beast. But even in this early phase, it’s apparent that the 45th president is as difficult a subject as he is irresistible. Neither satire nor fiction can adequately capture him. So writers might be wise to consider him obliquely, as Rachman does: as a presence in the room, not a focal point. Basket of Deplorables is less interested in Trump than in the people and factors that enabled his presidency, and sometimes not even in those. Its point is that Americans’ increasing polarization and suspicion of each other is leading to a place that could make even 2017 seem like halcyon days for humanity by comparison.

The world of the five stories is an intricate, interconnected one, with many of the various connections and hints only emerging on a second read. The first tale, from which the collection gets its name, is set on November 8, 2016, at a prototypically dazzling Manhattan soiree, where fashion designers mingle with cultural theory professors and Salvadoran waiters serve sumac-spiced appetizers raided from “the pages of Ottolenghi.” Georgina, the narrator, is a former photographer known for her caustic images of rock stars and artists; her good-natured partner, Roger, is a publisher who prides himself on his parties, where Henry Kissinger and Britney Spears might both be proffered as cultural curiosities for the left-leaning “hothouse intellectuals” in attendance.”

Read more at The Atlantic

Featured photo credit: The Atlantic

Would You Read This Collection of Short Stories?