Now that 2011 is over, may the media reflections begin! 2011 was a year to remember, as well as a year to forget, for any number of different and varied reasons. The Arab Spring brought a wave of democratically-styled popular uprisings that have reshaped politics in the “crucible of empires” (i.e. the Middle East). 2011 also witnessed a historic do-nothing U.S. Congress who appeared more willing to send the U.S. into a global sinkhole than to compromise on matters of ideology (I’m referring to the GOP, of course).
Sadly, all of the momentous news stories that made 2011 a memorable year also overshadowed the issue of climate change in the media. According to The Daily Climate’s archive of global media, there were 19,000 climate change-related stories in 2011, a 42% decline from the peak year of 2009. The dip in climate change coverage ironically came amid some of the world’s most extreme and devastating natural weather events. The wildfires in Arizona, famine in the Horn of Africa, devastating hurricanes across broad swaths of the U.S., and the historic drought in Texas all occurred in 2011. In the U.S. alone, we witnessed 12 “extreme” natural disasters in 2011, a record-breaking number (extreme natural disasters are quantified as having caused $1 billion in damage or more).
With these extreme weather events so prominent across the globe, it would have been sensible for the media to refocus its attention on climate change. After all, isn’t the media supposed to be an institution that looks out for “the people”? It seems clear in hindsight that the media coverage surrounding climate change was at odds with the severity of the dangers posed by this phenomenon.
Of course, we cannot lie and wait for the media to raise the awareness of American’s over the issue of climate change. We can each do our part by reading up on climate change and how it might affect you and your loved ones for no more than 15 or 30 minutes a day. A little extra knowledge goes a long way, especially when you can also spread that knowledge to other interested parties (everyone!) that fall within your social network. Never has humankind witnessed as dangerous a “silent killer” as climate change and never will we again if we don’t continue to act to stem its worst effects.