ElectionWatch: Newsweek Devotes 18 Pages to Fawning over 'Green,' Including Candidates' Credentials

     “At this vital juncture in the Earth’s history, it’s clear that the American people are looking for a presidential candidate who will take climate change ‘very seriously.’”


     That’s how Jerry Adler began his piece in the April 14 issue of Newsweek, focusing on “Environment and Leadership.”


     He was mocking President George W. Bush’s words from the 2000 presidential campaign. Bush, of course, has changed his rhetoric since then, announcing on April 16 that he would like to see a halt in the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025.


     In any case, however, Adler’s statement was highly inaccurate. In a March NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, only 4 percent of respondents said they thought “the environment and global warming” should be the federal government’s top priority. It came in behind the economy, the Iraq war, health care, energy, terrorism and illegal immigration.


     Still, Adler tried to justify it as a key election issue, saying “last year more than three voters in 10 said they would take a candidate’s green credentials into account.” That’s about 30 percent of voters saying they would even take it “into account.” But Newsweek used that statistic to herald it as “a leading concern.”


     In another poll, less than half – 47 percent – said they saw it as “a very serious issue,” according to Rasmussen Reports.


     Regardless of public opinion, however, the media have deemed presidential candidates’ “green” credentials of great import.  


     Adler painted the candidates, who for the most part were deemed environmentally friendly, as a balm for the world and a grand blessing:


“The president Americans choose this fall will take office in 2009, the year in which a new international treaty on global warming is to be negotiated, replacing the expiring Kyoto Protocol. It will likely set the course of energy and technological change for the first half of the century, and if America wants to have a voice in the process, it must have leaders willing to engage in it. As matters appear now, it likely will.”


     As for the majority of Americans, who according to polls don’t regard global warming as a top priority for the next president, Adler didn’t offer much voice for any skepticism of charging forward with post-Kyoto measures. He declared environmentalism “a broad-based political force, rather than an elite preoccupation of people concerned about the effect of rising sea levels on beachfront property.”


     He did refer to “climate-change skeptics and deniers” in the second paragraph, accusing them of charging that “the threat of global warming is a conspiracy kept alive by the media.”


     But for actual sources in his story, Adler stuck with left-wing environmental activists like the Sierra Club. Much of the article played up the rankings of the presidential candidates according to the League of Conservation Voters, a left-wing environmental organization. Then he turned to Friends of the Earth and a Berkeley professor who advises Barack Obama.


     A companion photo gallery on Newsweek’s Web site highlighted “Environmental Leaders.” In addition to the obligatory Al Gore, the gallery exalted Rachel Carson, the activist author of “Silent Spring.” Carson’s work against the pesticide DDT led to a ban of the product that has been linked with millions of deaths in malaria-prone countries. The gallery also featured James Lovelock, who has claimed six billion people will die from global warming.

In Green We Trust


     The green grandstanding continued with a philosophical column by Newsweek’s Evan Thomas and Pat Wingert evaluating which candidate has the power to “extract sacrifice from the voters who elected him (or her).”


      “The next president is likely to launch the nation on the path toward reducing dangerous CO2 emissions,” Thomas and Wingert wrote, worrying that Congress might not go as easily. “To go further, to truly tackle the greenhouse effect, will require the one thing from voters that few politicians dare to ask for and fewer achieve: massive public sacrifice.”


     The writers found “some of the qualities required” in all three candidates, but praised Obama the most.


      “Barack Obama is the most thrilling speechmaker since JFK, at least as younger and more-educated voters see him,” they wrote. “He has the intelligence and storytelling ability to fashion a great narrative, a storyline that would help voters see past narrow self-interest to the ‘broad, sunlit uplands,’ as Winston Churchill once put it.”


     Thomas and Wingert whined, “If we wait until the water starts lapping over Manhattan to really do something to affect climate change, it will be too late.”


     They admitted the need for China and India to be involved in any significant climate treaty, while warning of dire consequences: “The great leaders will have to win over not only their countrymen but a good portion of the world. … Or we can wait for the ice caps to melt, in which case the leaders will be calling for a different kind of sacrifice, like abandoning coastal cities.”

Yet Another Magazine List of Ways to Save Us


     Newsweek also produced “10 Fixes for the Planet,” the latest in a long trend of media lists about going green. April is traditionally the time when magazines produce “green issues.” Newsweek’s list for this year suggests:  


1. “Zero waste” – that’s right, the next generation of recycling is … no trash?


2. “LED light bulbs” – “Now that we’ve all dutifully stocked up on compact fluorescents, guess what? A new generation of even better bulbs may be on its way.”


3. “Greener fairways” – considering golf courses as natural sanctuaries.


4. “Kite sails” – shipping using wind power, the new kind with 20,000-square-foot “kites” attached to ships.


5. “Plastic solar cells”


6. “Climate counts” – “You can vote with your dollars to support green companies.”


7. “The Aptera” – it’s a car. A three-wheeled hybrid. And it gets 300 mpg.


8. “Stoves for the masses” – energy-efficient stoves for those in countries that still cook with wood.


9. “New roots for old crops” – crossbreeding crops to grow perennial foodstuffs.


10. “Democratize green” – “Ecofriendly products need to go mainstream,” i.e. stop being “the exclusive domain of the wealthy.”  


     For more commentary and details on the 10, go to the full list.

It Didn’t Stop There


     Despite the endless magazine lists of ways to save the planet, Newsweek’s Sharon Begley declared “the greatest folly is the ‘what you can do’ fairy tale.”


      “[W]e shouldn’t fool ourselves that individual eco-conscious behavior can prevent dangerous global warming,” Begley wrote. “That will require ‘serious interventions from governments to change how we produce and use energy,’ says Gabrielle Walker, coauthor of the new book ‘The Hot Topic’ with Sir David King, Britain’s former science adviser.” Begley concluded: “Some problems are too big to solve one weatherstrip at a time.”


     Begley made the valid point that many eco-efforts have proved false – for example, sometimes it’s less energy-intensive to buy food shipped in rather than transported locally. She referred to myths about all hybrids being extremely energy-efficient as well as the ethanol myth.


      “When you tote up the carbon emissions caused by clearing land to grow corn, fertilizing it and transporting it, corn ethanol leaves twice the carbon footprint as gasoline,” Begley wrote.


     Still, Begley’s sources followed Adler’s lead of left-wing organizations only: Jonathan Harrington, author of “The Climate Diet”; NASA’s James Hansen; the Union of Concerned Scientists’ David Friedman; Joseph Romm of the Center for American Progress.


     Business did get a mention – apparently it’s okay to be a capitalist as long as your business has to do with the environment. One article about “Green M.B.A.” programs told the story of a business student who started a business called Ecohome Improvement.


     She “wanted to go to business school without feeling as if she was selling her soul,” Newsweek helpfully noted. But never fear: the magazine declared that the businesswoman’s 200-percent increase in revenue was just fine, thanks to the eco-nature of her trade. “Soul intact, she is cashing in,” the article concluded.


     Businesses also strutted their environmental stuff in green advertising amidst Newsweek’s pages. Siemens and Vestas ads sported windmills, while Chevrolet touted a hybrid SUV and Target urged readers to send in their plastic Target bags to get a reusable shopping bag and to “Love your mother (earth).” Ricoh, an office technology company, boasted that it is “boosting the earth’s immune system.” Clorox declared it’s a “proud supporter of the Sierra Club’s efforts to preserve and protect the planet.”  




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