May 22, 2007

The greener side of news blogs

The Business of Green, a blog put out every two days by the International Herald Tribune in hopes of creating a global dialogue on the environment, is worth looking at. What’s interesting about this blog is how much the emphasis is on starting a dialogue. Each posts begins by introducing an issue and ends with a question. The questions are posed directly to “you,” the reader.

The authors, Libby Rosenthal and James Kanter are both award-winning journalists. Kanter covers European and global business for the IHT and writes a weekly column called the Business of Green. Kanter often uses the blog to continue the discussion he starts in his column, asking specific questions in a less rhetorical and more direct way as he does here:

From Kanter:

“…In my Business of Green column this week, Klaus Lackner, a professor of geophysics at Columbia University, says we’re going to ‘need technologies that at first light seem like silver bullets because the scale of the climate change problem is so large.’ Lackner also says that on current trends, the earth is only 35 years away from the point at which global warming would be impossible to reverse and that ‘we need to throw everything we can at the problem.’

“What do you think about so-called geo-engineering projects that could someday save the planet? Do you think politicians are taking enough responsibility in case there is climate catastrophe in the coming decades? And do you think scientists at the most recent meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel were right to reject geo-engineering as untested and unproven?”

And here’s a comment responding to Kanter’s questions by a reader in Hanoi, Vietnam:

“We should take the most pessimistic conclusion based on good evidence and analysis for the allowable gases and particulate matter. And a solution consistent with the laws of nature that will keep us below that. Whether it is “traditional” things such as limiting emissions or non-traditional ones that can actually work to lower the effect of the pollutants. The latter as contrasted with actually limiting them.

“But in all this must remember something: using our present societal system based on coercion we have never solved even one of our basic societal problems in 5,000 years.

“And we can not expect that this system and the people using it who have not been able to make healthcare, pension and school systems work, will be able to solve the much more complex and contentious problems related to global warming.”

And with that, we’ve got a thought-provoking discussion that couldn’t have happened in the traditional media formats. The discussion is rising to new levels of detail rather than just skimming the surface. But there certainly is a balance in this blog and it seems to be the co-blogger, Rosenthal.

Rosenthal has written for the International Herald Tribune and The New York Times usually on topics related to health care as she also went to Harvard Medical School. So sometimes her posts don’t feel as smart as commentary from people who have more of a background in environmental issues. And folks who comment on her posts sometimes end up providing more revealing and thoughtful fodder for discussion than she does.

For example, in her May 18, 2007 posting on the mayors of 500 U.S. cities protesting the nation’s lack of support for the Kyoto treaty since it was introduced at the turn of the century, she simply sums up the news and then she asks:

“Isn’t it odd that a nation like the U.S., which is so green in so many places, can not commit to a stronger national plan of action?”

In my opinion, she’s thrown out a highly pedestrian question that people have been asking for nearly a decade. And the resulting discussion peters out after three comments.

So now I’m wondering… does the technique of introducing a topic and then posing an open-ended generic question work? Is there a better format? You tell me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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