The Environmental Disconnect

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Ben Cohen
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By Ben Cohen
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As a Brit in the States, BBC America is something of a relief to me, as it brings some sense of coherence to current events in the U.S. With
MSNBC, Fox, and CNN constantly battling over ratings, the BBC has a more straightforward (and somewhat dry) analysis that is not bound by the strange corporate culture that exists over here. The bizarre penchant for celebrity gossip and relentless focus on single issues has destroyed serious journalism in the media and distracts most Americans from seriously understanding their country.

However, as good as the BBC may be, it struck me last night that we are in a great deal of trouble after watching a segment with the BBC Correspondent Matt Frei and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. Friedman was on to talk about the current oil crisis and the need to switch to alternative energy resources. It was an interesting interview, and I agreed with Friedman in his analysis of the looming environmental and economic catastrophe. However, in between and after the segment, there were back to back advertisements for international airline companies, and a plug for Qatar as the 'world's fastest growing economy'. No doubt catering to the foreign business elite in America watching the BBC, there was absolutely no sense of irony in showing an important discussion on the environment, then displaying adverts for things that directly harm it.

As George Monbiot points out in his article 'Bring on the Recession', economic growth is no friend of the environment:

"However hard governments might work to reduce carbon emissions, they are battling the tide of economic growth. While the rate of growth in
the use of energy declines as an economy matures, no country has yet managed to reduce energy use while raising gross domestic product. The
UK’s carbon dioxide emissions are higher than they were in 1997(3), partly as a result of the 60 successive quarters of growth that Gordon
Brown keeps boasting about."

There is no need to discuss the adverse effect of international flying (you need fuel to fly a plane, and fuel means pumping more carbon into
the atmosphere), but the point remains. To have such contradictory messages presented to us without apparent concern means we have a
serious problem in fully understanding our predicament.

It means that we have an ideological and cultural framework that needs to change if we are to effectively tackle our environmental problems.
It means we cannot consume to our hears content, and we cannot have economic growth if we want to preserve our natural environment. It
means above all that we cannot pretend we can have it all.

These are not easy issues to deal with as it means massive upheaval and a dramatic evaluation of how we live. This article is not meant to
lecture; I live in Los Angeles and drive an inordinate amount of the time. I also fly home to see my family twice a year and leave a
considerable carbon footprint compared to most of the world's population.

The problems we have however, are bigger than this. Although individuals cutting down on their consumption obviously helps, a
cultural shift needs to occur in order for us effectively deal with the issue of climate change.

Advertising fuel burning luxury flights and high growth economies in between environmental programming is just one example of the massive
disconnect in our society.

We can start by at least demanding consistency.