Environmental pipe dreams

Grass Roots

Creative Commons/Courtesy

There was a time in my life when I knew exactly what I wanted to be. Or rather, where I wanted to be. I wanted to be in New York City, home of sky-high buildings, even higher rent prices and more importantly to me, The New York Times. I dreamed of becoming the editor of the Times’ environment desk. This pipedream was a bit more realistic than my childhood ambition of becoming a marine biologist, but not by much. I would be a leader in connecting environmental issues to business, technology, race and class. Intersectionality would be my specialty, and I would make environmental journalism a staple of the daily newspaper.

Everything changed a few weeks ago when the Times dismantled its environment desk.  No one was fired, and so far the Times’ environmental news has been solid as always, but I worry about the message that such a move does to environmental journalism as a whole. Dean Baquet, the managing editor for news operations, said the redistribution of staff was due in part to the widening scope of environmental journalism, which touches on topics ranging from business to technology and politics, just to name a few.

But environmental news needs to be more than just an interesting angle in a broader news story. Our generation is especially aware of the precarious position our environment is in, and our news needs to reflect this changing mindset. We need clear, concise and investigative environmental journalism more than ever.

The Columbia Journalism Review recently reported that there are less than 20 newspapers in the United States with a weekly science section. There were 95 in 1989. And with the immense proliferation of websites of all shapes and sizes attempting to fill the void, can we really be surprised that many people have whacked-out views on science and the state of the environment?

Just look at the 2012 House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, with notable members including Todd “legitimate rape” Akin, Dana Rohrabacher — the Orange County representative  who once suggested that clear-cutting forests might help combat climate change — and a host of other problematic politicians. If these individuals are responsible for funding our science and environmental programs, then it becomes even more crucial to better inform our citizens.

The end of the environment desk does have a silver lining, however. Reading a variety of news sites bemoaning its loss has provided me with a much-needed motivation to actively begin writing about science and technology, with a focus on the environment. Rather than obsessing over on the loss of the environment, I will instead try to become like those journalists who have taught me so much.

I am passionate about the environment because I believe that every individual has the chance to better themselves and in turn better the environment by being thoughtful and conscious. If taking time out of my day to give my take on vermicompost (which is hella rad), climate change, green design or the countless other environmental topics I rave to my friends about on a daily basis inspires one person to learn more about environmental issues then I’ve done my job.

I don’t need an office in New York City to make a difference, to reach people and hopefully educate in a fun and down-to-earth fashion. The environmental movement is special because it is made up of people of all ages, abilities, faiths, colors and political beliefs — this diversity is what inspires me daily to continue writing and reporting.

I will still be looking to The New York Times for its amazing journalism, and depending on it for timely, accurate environmental news. And hopefully, by the time I’m ready to plunge into the world of professional journalism, the Times will have integrated environmentalism into every aspect of its organization. Well, a girl can dream, can’t she?

Image Source: alextorrenegra via Creative Commons

Contact Carli Baker at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @carliannebaker.