Year 1, Month 1, Day 12: NPR Hears From Me

Driving home today, I switched back and forth between NPR and the Thom Hartmann show on Boston’s progressive AM station (for which FSM be thanked!). NPR News ran a story on freezing weather in Florida, focusing on the damage citrus groves were taking from ice and snow, and mentioning that virtually the entire tropical fish supply of North America was jeapordized by the extreme cold (I never thought about thousands upon thousands of goldfish being raised in outdoor tanks in Florida, for sale to households across the nation, but there you are).

Naturally, the NPR announcers didn’t say a thing about the role that global climate change has in freak weather events like this. So after I finished teaching this evening, I went to the NPR ombudsperson’s page and submitted the following:

Fruit Freezes in Florida…

… and I heard the story on NPR News this evening.

While I found the story of potentially frozen citrus groves and iced tropical fish farms interesting, I was saddened (although not surprised, alas) that NPR did not do analysis of this story in light of the unfolding crisis of global climate change. A story like this one is a perfect vehicle to illuminate the fact that increased temperatures in some parts of the world can trigger freak weather (including unreasonable and unseasonable cold) in others.

Polls have shown that a significant proportion of Americans don’t believe that global warming is happening at all, or don’t believe that it is due to human agency. The current spell of extreme cold will inevitably trigger more statements along the lines of, “Global warming? Ha! Ha! Can’t you see it’s snowing outside!”

It is the responsibility of a news organization to help its audience figure out what the news means. The story of frozen fruit and fish in the American South would have been a perfect opportunity for NPR to do exactly that: teach its listeners a little bit about the difference between weather and climate, and why a warming planet can cause icicles in orange groves.

The future of the human species hangs on developing our ability to make sense of phenomena outside our accustomed scales of time and magnitude. The climate crisis is a perfect example; it is increasingly likely that our distractability and ignorance will prevent our taking meaningful action until it is too late to make a difference.

By failing to see this story for what it really is, NPR is enabling those who seek to deny the reality of our ongoing climaticide.

Warren Senders

If any of you happen to hear them reading this on the air, please let me know!

I don’t know if I’d say that it’s “unrelated.” I would tend to say that the relationship is more complex than the FOX News mentality can encompass.

12 Jan 2010, 9:01am
by Wendell

The cold snap is unrelated to global climate change – it’s just a high pressure system parked over Greenland, diverting the jet stream south.


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