Editor’s note: We invited Project Censored to shine a light on five environmental news stories that should have made the headlines.
Since its inception in 1976, Project Censored has followed pervasive patterns of omission in corporate news coverage, including how the nation’s most important news outlets fail to inform the public about inequality. social systems, the consolidation of corporate power and alternatives to neoliberal economic policies. Important environmental stories are often omitted or covered only partially due to a combination of these factors.
Although the corporate media covers environmental issues, these reports rarely emphasize the connections between environmental issues – many of which are global in scope – and the day-to-day workings of the US economy, which emphasizes the search for profits by companies on the one hand and on a culture of consumption. the other. Environmental stories that don’t fit into a tidy “red vs. blue” policy framework are even less likely to be covered by the nation’s biggest news outlets.
For nearly 50 years, Project Censored has published an annual report on the most important but underappreciated news. These lists, published in our yearbook series And archive on the Project Censored website demonstrate both the shortcomings in corporate reporting and the importance of independent journalism that educates the public on these otherwise overlooked issues. (Read our full explanation of the Project story identification and verification process.)
This year’s list of stories, published in State of the Free Press 2023, includes five important environmental stories that have only come to light through the hard work and dedication of independent journalists and news outlets. Here we provide sources and capsule summaries for each story.
‘Smart Ocean’ technology endangers whales and intensifies climate change
Koohan Paik-Mander, “Whales will save the world’s climate, unless the military destroys them first”, BuzzFlash (via Independent Media Institute’s Local economy of peace project), December 13, 2021.
Joint efforts by the military and industry to develop new ocean technologies and infrastructure – which engineers and advocates call “the smart ocean” – will have deadly consequences for whales, significantly undermining their “indispensable role” in carbon sequestration and climate disaster mitigation.
A number of corporate media, including Newsweek And Slate, covered scientific reports on the role of whales in carbon capture and climate change mitigation. But Koohan Paik-Mander’s report has the distinction of showing the links between new “smart ocean” technologies, catastrophic declines in whale populations and the climate crisis.
Rich countries continue to drive climate change, with devastating effects on poorer countries
Sonja Klinsky, “Climate Change Is a Justice Issue—These 6 Graphs Show Why,” The conversationNovember 3, 2021.
Tawanda Karombo, “These African countries are among the most affected in the world by climate change”, Quartz AfricaJanuary 27, 2021.
In a November 2021 article for The Conversation, Sonja Klinsky explained how and why the world’s poorest regions are disproportionately affected by climate change. Wealthier countries, such as the United States, Canada and Australia, emit around 100 times more greenhouse gas emissions per capita than many African countries, but the impacts of this damage have long loomed large. on the shoulders of the most vulnerable victims of climate change.
In 2019, according to a Quartz Africa report by Tawanda Karombo in 2021, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Niger all experienced drastic and unpredictable changes in temperature and rainfall, causing food shortages, economic disasters and hundreds of preventable deaths. . These countries bear little responsibility for perilous greenhouse gas emissions, but have the fewest resources available to deal with the consequences of climate change.
Corporate media such as Time and the New York Times began covering environmental racism in the United States. However, this coverage generally does not take into account how the United States and other northern countries have actually “colonized” the global atmospherepromoting their own economic growth at the expense of basic living conditions in other nations.
At least 128 members of Congress have invested in the fossil fuel industry
David Moore, “Senators Cling to Fossil Fuel Stockpiles as World Warms”, MudNovember 5, 2021.
David Moore, “GOP Rep Picks Up Millions in Pipeline Stock,” MudDecember 10, 2021.
David Moore, “At Least 100 House Members Are Invested in Fossil Fuels”, MudDecember 29, 2021.
Julia Rock and Andrew Perez, “Lauren Boebert’s Anti-Climate Legislation Is a Personal Enrichment Program”, JacobinSeptember 13, 2021.
At least 100 US Representatives and 28 Senators have financial interests in the fossil fuel industry. While more Republicans than Democrats invest in the fossil fuel industry, “Senate Democrats own up to $8,604,000 in fossil fuel assets, more than double the $3,994,126 in assets in fossil fuels of Senate Republicans,” David Moore reported. Many congressional leaders with investments serve on important committees, multiplying both their influence and the extent of the conflicts between their financial interests as investors and their responsibilities as elected representatives of the public.
Corporate media reports that clean energy legislation is “stuck” in Congress, but not the financial conflicts of interest that are the likely cause of this lack of progress.
Reports withheld by the EPA on hazardous chemicals
Sharon Lerner, “EPA Withheld Substantial Risk Reports for 1,240 Chemicals,” The interceptionNovember 1, 2021.
A. Crunden, “EPA’s Failure to Disclose Chemical Health Hazards Draws Wrath,” E&E NewsJanuary 5, 2022.
Between January 2019 and November 2021, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received more than 1,200 legally required disclosures about chemicals that pose a “substantial risk of harm to health or the environment.” All but one of the EPA’s reports on these chemicals have been withheld from the public, Sharon Lerner reported in a November 2021 Intercept article. E&E News’ EA Cruden was the first to report on a lawsuit filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), pressuring the EPA to publicly disclose TCSA Section 8(e) reports under the Freedom of Information Act.
Notably, in February 2022, after PEER’s complaint was filed, the EPA announced that it would resume publishing Substantial Risk 8(e) reports. Without the work of Sharon Lerner of Intercept, EPA whistleblowers would have had no platform to share the concerns that ultimately led the agency to resume these critical public disclosures.
Fossil fuel industry subsidized at $11 million per minute
Damian Carrington, “Fossil Fuel Industry Receiving $11 Million Per Minute Subsidies, IMF Says,” The GuardianOctober 6, 2021.
Eduardo Garcia, “Fossil Fuel Firms Receive $11 Million Per Minute in Subsidies, New Report Reveals,” TreehuggerOctober 21, 2021.
An in-depth study of 191 countries, released by the International Monetary Fund in September 2021, found that globally, the fossil fuel industry receives subsidies of $11 million per minute. Fossil fuel companies received $5.9 trillion in subsidies in 2020, with support expected to reach $6.4 trillion by 2025, according to the IMF report.
Some of the subsidies are direct – including policies that reduce prices and provide tax exemptions – but the vast majority of subsidies are indirect, including no liability for health costs from deadly pollution and damage caused by extreme weather events related to climate change.
“It’s critical that governments stop supporting a declining industry,” said Mike Coffin, principal analyst at Carbon Tracker. Guardianwho reported that ending fossil fuel subsidies would prevent “nearly one million deaths a year from polluted air” and bring “billions of dollars to governments”.
As Project Censored finalized its 2021-2022 slate of stories, no corporate media had covered the IMF’s report on the negative social and environmental consequences of increasingly massive government subsidies for big oil companies.
What can you do?
How might our shared outlook for 2023 and beyond be different if the establishment press did a better job of educating the American public on environmental issues? Answers to this question will take time because they depend on systemic changes in corporate news coverage, starting with more inclusive working definitions of who and what count as “newsworthy.”
In the meantime, beyond calling on corporate media to do better, those seeking trustworthy and engaging journalism should direct their attention – and support – to independent news outlets, such as those highlighted here and in previous editions of Project Censored’s annual story lists. By constantly connecting the dots between corporate influence, consumer culture and environmental issues, independent media plays a vital, albeit indirect, role in helping to build broad and inclusive movements for progressive social change, including including solutions to our most pressing environmental problems.
about the authors
Andy Lee Roth is associate director of Censored project, where he coordinates the Project Affiliate Program, a research network of several hundred students and faculty at two dozen colleges and universities across North America. He is the co-author of The media and mea book on critical media education for young people.
mickey huff is director of Project Censored and co-author of United States of entertainment, Let’s say we disagreeAnd The media and me. He co-hosts the Project censored show and teaches social studies, history, and journalism at Diablo Valley College.