As a part of Georgia Interfaith Power and Light’s (GIPL) Green Team Summit this past Sunday, I attended a workshop on eco-grief. Experiencing distress, anxiety, and grief is often an inevitable side effect of immersing oneself in this work. Most enter into it because of a great reverence and love of our natural world. Being open to see, with clear eyes, the loss we have experienced and will continue to experience makes us vulnerable to pain.
One of the tools we can use to curb our distress is recognizing the negative bias in our news media. This bent toward negativity is not limited to the division in our politics, school shootings, or the atrocities of war. Not surprisingly, this bias invades climate and environment news as well.
We are particularly vulnerable to this slant here in the U.S. In a January 2022 article in Medium, Eric Weiner writes, “The bad-news bias is a global phenomenon, but it is most pronounced in the U.S. One study found that in their pandemic coverage, media outlets in the U.S. struck a far more negative tone than their counterparts abroad: 91 percent of the U.S. stories were negative versus 54 percent overseas. The mainstream US media is even more negative in their coverage of COVID-19 than scientific journals, the study found.”
In relation to climate, while it remains true that we are still in deep trouble, it is important to recognize the strides that we have made and that our effort is showing signs of results. It is a balancing act. We need to remain clear eyed in order to maintain our diligence, but we also need to recognize that all is not hopeless. The key is allowing ourselves to hold the grief and the hope all at the same time. It is truly a “yes, and” situation.
How do we bring more focus to the positive? In the area of climate change, it is helpful to stay abreast of news directly from the scientists and to actually read the most recent findings of the IPCC directly.
In a recent article in the New Scientist, Graham Lawton explains that “ten years ago there was a genuine fear that we were heading for catastrophic warming of between 4°C and 5°C by 2100.
Today, those worst-case scenarios are no longer plausible.” That catastrophic warming was based on humankind maintaining its business as usual (BAU) scenario. Because of our negative media bias, “BAU quickly garnered more scientific and media attention than the other scenarios, in part because it extrapolated the situation at the time, but also because it made for sensational scientific papers and apocalyptic newspaper headlines.” In actuality, “recent analyses show that, if countries achieve the net-zero pledges that they have already put on the table, warming will stay under 2°C.”
Although he dispels the apocalyptic outcome projected by the BAU scenario, Lawton does not sugarcoat the situation. We are nowhere near being out of the woods, but we are making inroads. The positive news keeps us hopeful. Keeping our rose-colored glasses in their cases and recognizing the dangers still ahead keeps us diligent.
In addition to science-based news, there are a number of media outlets with a slant toward the positive that are quite worthwhile. So, once in a while, instead of consuming our usual news media, consider checking out one of the organizations that aim to bring us solutions-based stories, all while still telling us the truth. Here are a few to get you started.
Future Crunch: “If we want to change the story of the human race in the 21st century, we have to change the stories we tell ourselves.”
Positive News: “It’s time to break the bad news bias.”
Yes! Media: “a nonprofit, independent publisher of solutions journalism.”
Here’s to hopeful reading!
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JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team extends a radical welcome to activists, contemplatives, readers, meditators, questioners, tree hugging hippies, scientists, policy wonks, radicals, pacifists, nature enthusiasts, and all who seek community as we navigate our changing times together. Learn all about the group here, and check out our lending library and Carbon Offset Fund grant opportunity. Contact Jon Reese to connect to the CAT.