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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)


Air Date: Week of

Steve Curwood reflects on the summit, global warming, the lack of media attention, and what the public wants.


CURWOOD: I walked away from the ice sculptures with her question echoing in my mind. What did I think about this exhibition? Indeed, the whole Earth Summit itself? For one thing, I found being outside intolerably hot. The thought of escaping back into the centrally-cooled United Nations complex was deeply appealing, even though I knew that the air conditioners were probably being run on electricity from power plants that contribute to global warming.

I also thought it odd that there were few members of the press corps at the ice sculpture demonstration. Indeed, there was a general lack of notice being paid by the media to the entire Earth Summit and its theme of global warming. Usually a big gathering's press rooms are jammed. Not at this time. Did you want a prime viewing spot for the speeches of Presidents Clinton and Chirac, Prime Minister Blair or Chancellor Kohl? Just walk right in; the gallery would be mostly empty.

Most of the New York media barely mentioned it, it seemed, except in traffic advisories that roads on the East Side of Manhattan would be snarled by security barriers and motorcades for the dozens of heads of state. And I didn't hear any TV weather forecasters who are usually quick with a joke make any kind of connection between the high-level negotiations over global warming and the unusually early heat wave that was sizzling the city.

Of course, in many respects, the media are a reflection of ourselves. Global climate change is not yet a major concern for most people. Some of us have heard the science about global warming, but still choose to believe the skeptics, though they've been pretty well discredited. And others of us do feel that there is a problem, but don't know what to do about it. I for one don't want to shut off the air conditioning when it's over 90 degrees. We need direction. Perhaps more interest from the press and public in the environmental summit meetings of leaders will come when there's more leadership.



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