• picture
  • picture
PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Ecological Indicators

Air Date: Week of January 3, 2003

stream/download this segment as an MP3 file

Economic indicators are a common part of news broadcasts. Commentator Terry Link argues environmental indicators should air alongside them.

Transcript

CURWOOD: You’re listening to NPR’s Living on Earth. Stock prices, inflation rates and unemployment figures are part and parcel of most daily newscasts, but commentator Terry Link says maybe it's time for similar reports about environmental indicators.

LINK: Some economists like to toss around the saying that you are what you measure, so by that standard, how do we appear? Look at what the media tell us.

[NEWSCAST MUSIC]

NEWSCASTER: The Dow Jones tumbled 170 points on heavy trading of more than….

SECOND NEWSCASTER: Consumer confidence is lagging, dropping 0.2 percent from last….

FIRST NEWSCASTER: Wholesale prices rose 2.3 percent for the month, hinting that demand for products may once again signal….

LINK: You get the picture. Given the standard, then, that you are what you measure, it should be no surprise that we have become, simply, Homo economus. By constantly trying to measure wealth by GNP and stock prices, we tend to idolize consumption while we devalue much of what gives life its true meaning, namely, our connections to each other and with the marvelous and mysterious spinning sphere that provides us with life. So I believe it's way past time to give us equivalent daily reports on the health of our biosphere.

Why not report on the spread or decline of disease in humans, animals, and plants? Or give regular updates on receding glaciers, severity of storms, or increased ridership on mass transit and its effect on reducing pollution. A daily report might sound like this:

[NEWSCAST MUSIC]

NEWSCASTER: Energy consumption was up briskly in December, but the percentage of power generated from renewable resources climbed 25 percent faster than the overall increase. This has resulted in an overall drop in greenhouse gas emissions, despite the rise in overall consumption.

LINK: And how about we start reporting not only raw agricultural statistics but also the implications of those numbers:

NEWSCASTER: Michigan saw its consumption of locally produce lettuce climb by 19 percent from last year. More effective marketing of locally grown food brought a welcome boost to the state economy. Along with the advantage of increased freshness for lettuce consumers, the diminished transportation needs of locally produced food led to a reduction in air pollution, traffic congestion, and noise.

LINK: We must understand that the condition of our air, land and water is just as, if not more, important than fluctuations in our stock portfolios. Making environmental information more prominent and regularly available, as we do with stock prices and economic reports, is a step towards crucial mindfulness. We might even copy a Wall Street business reporting model and highlight a socially and environmentally responsible firm or organization that is developing products, services or processes that help build more sustainable communities.

We need to nourish the entrepreneurial spirit towards community solutions, and we need the mass media to give more of its news hole to report daily on the indicators of total community health, not simply the sterile financial numbers. If we were to give, at least, equal play to our natural world, we might just create a future where we all flourish.

CURWOOD: Terry Link is a librarian at Michigan State University and comes to us via the Great Lakes Radio Consortium.

 

 

Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

P.O. Box 990007
Prudential Station
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Telephone: 1-617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Newsletter
Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Major funding for Living on Earth is provided by the National Science Foundation.

Committed to healthy food, healthy people, a healthy planet, and healthy business.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live.

Kendeda Fund, furthering the values that contribute to a healthy planet.

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary hummingbird photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.