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Interview with Lester Brown on WorldChanging

Worldchanging has a fascinating interview with Lester Brown – of the Earth Policy Institute and writer of Plan B 2.0 – on the actual nuts and bolts of cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Not only does he talk about switching from oil to powering our vehicles with electricity and building wind turbines and more energy efficient dwellings and workplaces, but he talks about the politics, and “social tipping points.”

Because we’re faced with an enormous educational challenge. I don’t think the formal educational system has the capacity, because of the built-in time lags. I think [that the media is] the only institution that can respond to the educational challenge we face, so that people everywhere are as aware of what’s happening — or almost — as the people that are in this conference today. And that’s going to take an enormous effort. Now, it’s encouraging because the media’s beginning to give much more coverage to Climate Change, for example.

This is exactly how I perceive things. The problem is, as others have voiced, North American media, particularly in the U.S. seems to be lower quality. There’s much less informing going on and a lot of focus on shocking and entertaining. The European public seems to be much better informed (I lived and Europe and maintain contacts there) about how much of a threat climate change is, and exactly what contributes to it and how we can act against it. It’s difficult to get people to take personal action and to demand action from governments if they don’t understand the issue well. The media needs to not only emphasize that this is a political issue, but also that it’s a lifestyle issue. So far, I don’t think there’s a way to get around the huge greenhouse gas emissions from flying in jet aircraft, so as a society, we need to look for alternatives and be willing to cut back until we can deal with the environmental impact properly. It’s difficult to imagine our individualistic society taking steps in that direction, thinking about more than just what I want, right now. There is a lack of connection between individual action and collective, cumulative impacts.

It may even be that it’s more difficult to educate people now because many of us have stopped watching tv and spend most of our time on the internet. On the internet, you can choose what information you consume. My husband rarely ever reads regular news. He reads technology news and his life is pretty well focused on internet technology and the gaming industry. I focus on environment news because that has a lot to do with where my career is headed and what I’m personally interested in. If the media took it upon itself to start “getting the message out,” how could it distribute that message in a way that no one is left behind? According to a recent study, 13% of Americans hadn’t even heard of climate change. Are these people being left behind because they choose not to look at media that would tell them this kind of information, or because they’re poor and too concerned with making ends meet to even pay enough attention the media? Or maybe the media they are exposed to isn’t focusing enough on this issue.

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