Gaiag Me with a Spoon

(Editor's Note: this column was originally published on Earth Day, Tuesday, April 22, in CMI's newsletter, Culture Links. Click here to subscribe.)

It's Earth Day, the highest holy day of the year for practitioners of shoddy journalism. 

No subject, not even Barack Obama and the New Camelot, inspires reporters to drop any pretense of balance and objectivity like the Environment.  Green is the only way to go. Global Warming is likely to wreak havoc on your flowerbeds by the end of next week, it's all the fault of that parasitic species, Industrial Man, and anybody who disagrees is either a hopeless simpleton or a paid agent of Big Oil. 

Gaia can be a fickle goddess, as Earth Day celebrants in Canada discovered this weekend.  But the irony of an April blizzard driving an Earth Day celebration indoors, in this age of global warming, seems lost on reporters who have swallowed environmentalism hook, line and sinker. 

For the past week the media have promoted Earth Day incessantly. Story after story tells us how to live green, how to eat green, how to change our lifestyles to save the planet.  ABC's Good Morning America embarrassingly ran a countdown (only 58 hours, 37 minutes to Earth Day!) CMI Director Robert Knight has written a column detailing the recent excesses of media Gaia worship (see “My Big Fat Green Wedding and Other Media Nonsense” ). 

The fun continued on Monday evening when NBC's chief environmental affairs correspondent, Anne Thompson, took NBC Nightly News viewers on a field trip to Sweden.  Diabetics beware, this story is about to get downright syrupy. 

NBC anchor Brian Williams' introduction:

Have you ever noticed whenever you see those stories about which people are the most contented around the globe, whenever they profile the Swedes they always seem to be so happy and beautiful.  Now there's another reason to be green with envy about the Swedes, we're told they're living green lives, showing kindness to the planet and saving a ton of energy in the process. Here is our chief environmental affairs correspondent, Anne Thompson.


Sweden's official colors are blue and yellow but it lives green. From the citizens who can eat the fish from the waterways in Stockholm to King Carl XVI Gustaf, who rules the land and drives an ethanol-powered car.

Question then posed to Gustaf:  “Can the rest of the world learn from Sweden?”

Gustaf: “If you're willing to, yes.”

This isn't journalism, it's advertising.  Free advertising, because the Swedish tourism industry didn't pay a nickel for it.


A city of nearly 79,000, Växjö is a pioneer in green living, cutting carbon emissions by 30 percent per person in 15 years while still growing its economy. The crown jewel: its power plant that once burned oil.

We learn that Växjö's power plant runs on wood waste, and that Sweden plans to free itself from imported oil by making synthetic gasoline out of wood.


Wood waste goes from truck to conveyor belt to boiler. They need 30 times more wood waste than oil but it only costs 1/5 the price and produces near zero carbon emissions.

At this point an attentive journalist might ask, “Thirty times more wood waste than oil?  How many trees does it take to generate as much energy as a barrel of oil?  Where will all that wood come from?  Is it realistic to think we can replace oil energy with wood waste energy on a massive scale?”

But raising questions about green energy production isn't the purpose of this story. Not when uncomfortable questions might interfere with reducing carbon footprints, minimizing the so-called greenhouse effect and feeling good about ourselves.

To her credit, Thompson is willing to acknowledge that making a green omelet means breaking a few eggs.


Even here in Europe's greenest city, some ways of life are much harder to change, like trying to convince people to ride on two wheels instead of four. The mayor thinks he knows how.

Mayor of Växjö:

You live with the whip and the carrot. The whip makes it more expensive to use fossil fuels and the carrot to make it inexpensive to use alternatives.

This environmental frenzy is getting downright dangerous.  A column in USA Today, “Might Our Religion Be Killing Us?,” suggests that religions are promoting overpopulation and thereby bringing environmental calamity. Going childless may become the new sacrament to the earth religion.  

The media need to bring balance and objectivity back into reporting on environmental issues, before the politicians needlessly start cracking whips on us all.

Brian Fitzpatrick is senior editor at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.