In The Murrow Boys: Pioneers on the Front Lines of Broadcast Journalism, Stanley Cloud and Lynne Olson describe how a young Edward Murrow, together
with the men he hired to staff CBS Radio, spread across Europe as the Phony War of 1939–40 played out, much like the slow-motion catastrophe of global warming plays out in our time. They saw the threat posed by the Nazis yet struggled to get the
attention of an American public that was still reeling from the Great Depression.
In September of 1939, with Europe hours away from going up in flames, the powers at CBS in New York ordered Murrow and William Shirer to feature
an entertainment broadcast spotlighting dance music from nightspots in London, Paris, and Hamburg. Murrow in London called Shirer in Berlin. “They say there’s so much bad news out of Europe, they want some good news. … The hell with
those bastards in New York. It may cost us our jobs, but we’re just not going to do it.”
And they didn’t. In defying their bosses they gave CBS one of the biggest stories of the 20th century - the invasion
of Poland. Yet even as German panzer divisions gathered on the borders of France and the Low Countries, the powers in New York resisted. “My God!,” Shirer fumed. “Here was the old continent on the brink of war…and the network
was most reluctant to provide five minutes a day from here to report it.”
In September 1940, in the middle of the London Blitz, a Gallup poll showed that only 16 percent of Americans supported sending US aid to
beleaguered Britain. Olson and Cloud tell us that “One month later, as Murrow and the Boys brought the reality of it into American living rooms, 52 percent thought more aid should be sent.” Americans had taken one step toward the fight against
fascism, and some young, proud, defiant reporters helped take it. They were not the only reason, to paraphrase part of a speech given by Bill Moyers on April 30, 2019, at a conference organized by the Columbia Journalism Review and by The Nation, but they
were there, on the right side, at the right time, in the right way—reporting on the biggest story of all, the fight for freedom from tyranny.
Bill Moyers continued, “Many of us have recognized
that our coverage of global warming has fallen short. There’s been some excellent reporting by independent journalists and by enterprising reporters and photographers from legacy newspapers and other news outlets. But the goliaths of the US news media,
those with the biggest amplifiers—the corporate broadcast networks—have been shamelessly AWOL, despite their extraordinary profits. The combined coverage of climate change by the three major networks and Fox fell from just 260 minutes in 2017 to
a mere 142 minutes in 20l8—a drop of 45 percent, as reported by the watchdog group Media Matters.”
Many of the news outlets in the US that have survived the culling of the traditional media have failed to counter
the tsunami of deceptive propaganda unleashed by fossil-fuel companies and those whom Moyers calls “the mercenaries, ideologues, and politicians who do their bidding.”
It is easy to deny that which is inconvenient
to one’s paradigm.
Last October, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a scientifically conservative body, gave us 12 years to make the massive changes necessary to reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions
to 45 percent of 2010 levels, and to net zero by 2050. In July of this year a similar body said that that 12 years is, more realistically, 18 months. Tom Engelhardt, author ofTomDispatch.com, describes
humanity as now on a suicide watch.
We are all familiar with the stripping away of forests in Indonesia, of destructive developments in India and China, of rising sea levels in pacific atolls and Miami, of melting ice at both
poles, of disastrous spring crops in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri. The temperature in major European cities, as I write, is in excess of 42 degrees celsius, the second major heat wave of this summer. According to the EU’s Copernicus
Climate Change Service, “Every month this year ranks among the four warmest on record for the month in question.”
And then there are the unanticipated stories. In the third week of July, for example,
drought in Zimbabwe caused a drop in the levels of Kariba Dam. The hydro-powered generators are producing only one fifth of the electricity needed by the country, which means that the power grid is shut down for 17 hours of every day. Take a minute
and imagine your daily life based on seven hours of electricity. There are unprecedented wild fires in the Arctic Circle (Russia, Greenland, Alaska and Canada) caused by lightening strikes on vegetation which is drier than usual because of record-breaking
summer temperatures., not to mention the 70 000 wild fires out of control in the Amazon forests- the so-called ‘lungs of the earth.’ And as with many reptiles, the gender of sea turtles is determined by the temperature surrounding the egg
shell before the embryo emerges; warmer temperatures mean more females and very few males, which obviously threatens the survival of this species.
Warmer temperatures enlarge the hospitable environs for
invasive insects and pathogens that have wreaked havoc on ash, elm, and chestnut trees, wiping some of them almost completely from American forests. A study by Prof Songlin Fei of Purdue University shows that the carbon storage lost to pests each year is the
same as the carbon emitted by five million vehicles and that trees killed each year by the 15 most invasive pests contain six million tons of carbon.
The good news is that, according to Bill McKibben, this is ‘a
climate moment’ which, with the emerging leadership of young people, not least GretaThunberg, offers a rare opportunity “to lock in and consolidate public opinion that’s finally beginning to come into focus.” And this is despite
a US government that scorns reality as fake news, denies the truths of nature, and promotes a theocratic theology that views catastrophe as a sign of the returning Messiah.
David Wallace-Wells, inThe
Uninhabitable Earth , explains that we have all the tools we need aggressively to phase out dirty energy, to cut global emissions and to scrub carbon from the atmosphere. What we need, he adds, is the “acceptance of responsibility,”
and it needs to happen quickly. Everyone reading these words is a member of the most important generation that ever lived, because we are determining the future, not just for a hundred years, as Dave Foreman asserts, but for a billion years.
How do honey bees and beekeepers fit into this picture? Mass bee deaths were cited in 24 of Russia’s 85 regions, with 300,000 bee colonies having died over June and July – the peak months for honey harvesting.
In France the spring was characterized by late frosts and winds from the north that dried out flowers, resulting in a severely limited nectar flow. This is the tip of an iceberg that we will explore more deeply next month. Suffice to say the climate change
phony war is over. The hot war is here, and beekeepers have a key role to play.