April 22, 2013

Earth Day

Monday 22 April: Earth Day. If you click on Google's doodle, first up is http://www.earthday.org/2013, and under 'About' there's a succinct explanation of this year's Earth Day theme – the many faces of climate change. These are the faces of people already feeling the impact of climate change, from New Jersey to the Niger River, as well as of many millions who will stand up for the protection of the planet and the promotion of a healthy, sustainable environment at thousands of events today.

I was surprised to learn that there have been Earth Days for over 40 years.

I typed 'Earth Day' into a few major news sites. ABC: nothing. Sydney Morning Herald: nothing. The Age: nothing. The Guardian: nothing. The Times: nothing.

Those that did mention Earth Day included Reuters, who rather missed the point, however. They 'honoured' the day by getting online travel advisor cheapflights.com to choose its '10 favourite forests' around the globe. (Australia's Daintree rainforest came in at number eight.)

The best the BBC could muster was in an episode of animated series dirtgirlworld. The Daily Mirror emphasised Google's doodle rather than the aims of Earth Day, although they did explain what it was. The Washington Post gets the prize for the most useful coverage.

If you've already read The Australian today, then you may wonder why I haven't already included its coverage in my survey so far. Unfortunately, I must decry yet another misleading headline (see also The Australian's deplorable headline, December 2012). This time Danish skeptical environmentalist* Bjorn Lomborg urges us to Celebrate Earth Day with a bit of fracking. His thesis is that natural gas should be exploited in the short term to reduce our emissions while further research is progressed to provide more viable green alternatives. He may have a point, but fracking is not a topic to be trifled with. The environmental fallout from shale gas production in the US and the risk to Australia's precious water reserves from inadequately investigated coal seam gas extraction undermine gas energy proponents' argument.

As I looked down on northern WA, the Territory and Queensland from 33,000 feet last weekend (picture above), I marvelled as ever at a truly remarkable landscape. I was too high to discern how much of it was being fracked up. Today I believe more befitting of Earth Day are topics based on the 5 Rs rather than the f-word.

Lomborg's book The Skeptical Environmentalist was published in 2001. While accepting the reality of anthropogenic global warming, he rejects short-term climate mitigation measures in favour of long-term solutions to a range of global problems that do not prioritise warming. Lomborg's work is controversial and he has been severely criticised, not least for scientific dishonesty


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