I subscribe to The Guardian because I find it offers the best news coverage available. “Subscribe” may not be the right word. The Guardian has no paywall like many other online newspapers do. It simply asks readers to support its journalism, which I do to the tune of $20 a month. I feel I get more than my money’s worth.
Because of my financial support, I occasionally get emails from The Guardian. This week, I got one from George Monbiot, a senior columnist for the newspaper. I consider him one of the most fair-minded journalists working today. Brian McGrory, executive editor of the Boston Globe, likes to say, “The job of a journalist is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” George Monbiot does that in spades.
I was moved by his email, so I asked my editors here at CleanTechnica if it was OK to share it with my readers. After all, the email ends with a pitch for money, so I didn’t want to do anything that would give the powers that be around here indigestion. I got approval to go ahead and so, without further ado, here is the entire email from George Monbiot, unexpurgated and unvarnished. I hope you will take the time to read it. It’s powerful stuff.
If I Sound Angry, It’s Because I Am.
We have a fairly good idea of what certain politicians are attempting at the climate conference in Glasgow: to do as little as possible, then convince us they have saved the planet. Words are politically cheap, actions are expensive. Confronting fossil fuel producers and other legacy industries invites a world of trouble. It offends the political instincts of most of those in power today, too many of whom owe their power to support from dirty business. Assuaging a bamboozled public, by contrast, comes naturally.
The role of journalists should be to stop them getting away with it. We should detect the failures, expose the corruption, unmask the deceptions. These duties, always vital, have never been more urgent. The possible collapse of our life support systems is the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced. If this threat were to materialize, it would render all other political issues — and for that matter, all other human ambitions, hopes, fears, dreams and nightmares — irrelevant.
Until recently, this prospect seemed ridiculous. The idea that Earth systems could tip into a state that renders most of the planet uninhabitable seemed like science fiction. But the more we understand about complex systems, and the counterintuitive ways in which they behave, the more plausible it appears. As governments keep failing to act in ways commensurate with the scale of the threat, it begins to seem more likely than not that this unimaginable catastrophe will occur.
You might have hoped that such a prospect would dominate the public conversation everywhere. It’s true that, in the weeks approaching the summit, some of the media have begun to ramp up their environmental coverage. But it’s a fair bet that as soon as the delegates have gone home, they’ll revert to their customary mixture of indifference, minimization and denial.
The Guardian is the UK’s only major media outlet that has consistently given a platform to people challenging business as usual: the economic and political systems pushing the planet towards disaster.
For several years, following a wave of sackings at other newspapers, I was the UK’s only remaining environmental columnist. Between 1995 and 2018, the BBC’s channel controllers furiously rejected almost every environmental proposal brought to them, sometimes with a stream of expletives. Channel 4’s commissioners followed suit, and went a step further: they broadcast films such as Against Nature and The Great Global Warming Swindle, that denied global heating and other environmental crises, and repeated falsehoods concocted by fossil fuel companies.
There have been some improvements since then, but the most important story of all is still pushed to the periphery. Even during the disasters that hint at what might be coming — the heat domes and droughts in North America this year, the fires in Siberia and around the Mediterranean, the catastrophic floods in West Africa, China and northern Europe — most of the news media merely glanced up for a moment before returning to their core business: the court gossip that passes for political journalism.
If I sound angry about my sector, it’s because I am. Across my 36 years in journalism, I’ve seen opportunities to avert this existential crisis slipping through our fingers like sand. If you were to ask me which industry has done more to frustrate environmental action – fossil fuels or the media – I would say the media. Without the social licence granted to them by media companies, fossil fuel corporations and other destructive industries would not have been able to fend off demands for change. Governments would have been forced to act.
So time is now short. We need to do in ten years what we could have done in 40. We need massive popular movements pressing reluctant governments to treat this existential crisis with the urgency it deserves. And nothing will change unless we know what is happening and understand what we face.
The Guardian will not allow the threat to the living planet to fade from public life. It will keep building on its team of uniquely experienced environmental journalists, to explain the issues, expose the vandals trashing our home, disperse the smokescreens behind which governments hide, and lay out a vision of a better world.
With your help, we will hold governments to account, while equipping you with the facts and arguments you need to navigate this great crisis. We will continue to bring you urgent, independent climate journalism that’s open for everyone, so millions more can benefit.
But we can’t do this without you. By being a Guardian supporter, you play a truly vital role in sustaining our work and helping us to amplify our defense of the planet that gives us life. The more of this work we do, the more expensive it becomes, and the more funding we require. Thanks to your generous support, we will be able to produce quality reporting long after COP 26 has finished.
Then comes the pitch for money. “As world leaders gather at the crucial UN climate summit, Guardian reporting — independent, rigorous, science-led and open to all — has never mattered more. Together, we can give the climate crisis the sustained prominence it requires. Show your support today.”
I confess I am in awe of George Monbiot and the undercurrent of seething rage that lies just below the surface in much of his writing. He is my muse and I try to emulate his writing style in the stories I do for CleanTechnica. If you could see your way clear to supporting The Guardian — even if it’s only $5.00 — I would consider it a personal favor. We desperately need journalists who will write the truth in a world where madness and hatred are rampant. Thank you.
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