Why is the Environment So Boring?

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Via Andrew Sullivan, I see that the New York Times, having already shuttered its environment desk, killed its Green blog last Friday. Andrew Revkin, who writes the Times’ Dot Earth blog, isn’t happy:

The news side of The Times has nine sports blogs; nine spanning fashion, lifestyles, health, dining and the like; four business blogs; four technology blogs (five if you include automobiles as a technology); and a potpourri of other great efforts, with four of my favorites being the Learning Network blog, Scientist at Work, the IHT Rendezvous blog on global news and Lens, run by the paper’s photo staff.

….I would like to have thought there was space for the environment in that mix, even though these issues are still often seen by journalists weaned on politics as a sidenote (remember Candy Crowley’s post-debate comment about “all you climate change people”?).

Obviously the Times editors are going to come in for plenty of criticism over this, and that’s fine. They deserve it. But let’s face it: the reason they did this is almost certainly that the blog wasn’t getting much traffic (and, therefore, not generating much advertising revenue). So a more constructive question is: Why do readers—even the well-educated, left-leaning readers of the Times—find environmental news so boring? Is it because we all write about it badly? Is it something inherent in the subject itself? Is it because most people think we don’t really have any big environmental problems anymore aside from climate change? Or is it because it’s just such a damn bummer to read endlessly about all the stuff we should stop doing because, somehow, it will end up destroying a rain forest somewhere?

When political parties lose, we all advise them not to shoot the messenger. If people don’t vote for you, there’s a reason. The same is probably true in this case. The Times editors are basically just the messengers here. We need to figure out why most people don’t seem to care about this stuff, and whether there’s anything we can do about it.

In the meantime, there are other places to go. May I recommend Blue Marble, MoJo’s environmental blog?

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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