Thursday, August 30, 2007

Champion of Ignorance

When the News Press reported that the oceans would rise seven meters in “about ten years” they did two things. First, they scared their own readers, apparently by choice, and second they put these words into my mouth. I never said anything like this, and never would. So why did the News Press chose to frighten its readers and use a campaign of misinformation against the lightblueline art project?

Perhaps they read the Independent and the Daily Sound and realized that the responsible journalistic positions had already been taken. After all they waited several days to report the City Council approval of the lightblueline. But then, they chose to not attend the council meeting. They also chose not to attend the various public city arts committee meetings where the lightblueline project was scrutinized and then unanimously approved. Instead they offered up opinions about lightblueline being a pet project on some hidden inside track. Then there was the twelve thousand dollars the city put up to pay the overtime for street workers to help protect the safety of the hundreds of volunteers who would be painting the line. That’s about one percent of the City’s art budget.

Next there was the “soliciting donations” accusation. As though no other public charity in Santa Barbara had ever done this before. The “link to a private website” was another curious position. Almost all of the science education content in the US is served up by non-governmental sources. Perhaps the News Press would prefer that the city hire an “information tzar” to monitor the content of the local non-profit websites. Who knows what the Santa Barbara Museum of Art might post next? When the Historic Landmarks Commission approved the lightblueline there was some hope that the actual message of the project still might rise above the steady stream of misinformation from the News Press.

However, the News Press had no intention of fulfilling its role in the public sphere. Any self-respecting newspaper would have looked into the actual science of global warming and at least make a gesture to talk to local scientists about this. Lightblueline gave the News Press contact information for several prominent UCSB experts, none of which the paper chose to interview.

Human induced climate change is the single largest challenge that human society has posed for itself in our history on this planet. We have about ten years to mitigate the effects of global warming by cutting back on our greenhouse gas emissions. This will mean sacrifices large and small from each of us. That is the reason why lightblueline was formed: to help all of us in Santa Barbara realize what we have to lose in the long term if we don’t act together in the short term.

Lightblueline is assembling a robust educational service on its website; a place for teachers, students, and the public to learn about climate change and sea-level rise. Apparently the need for this resource is more critical than we thought. For example, the whole idea that drawing the line in Santa Barbara would affect property values is based on a profound ignorance of the facts of the project and of climate change. But now ignorance has found a champion. Surely the editors of the News Press realize that this just another distraction from the real problem. What is the position of the News Press on human-induced climate change?

A big loser here is the News Press, which just wasted the remnants of its reputation in a vendetta against a volunteer-based, educational public art project. The need to come together to work against climate change grows stronger. Education will overcome ignorance. It’s simply sad that this happened in Santa Barbara. We all lose when our mediasphere has been poisoned for private reasons.

For the record, I told the News Press that sea-level rise due to inaction to stop climate change would take centuries. The real problem is that we only have a decade to protect our future waterfront.

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