Covering green issues is part and parcel of any weekly newsmagazine. Championing one side of an issue, refusing to report contrarian studies by reputable scientists, is quite another.
And climate change? Time is loathe to publish, print, or write a single word that goes against Stengel's belief that his magazine declared the debate is over, the verdict is in, and man-made CO2 causes global warming (AGW). To give you an idea of just how biased and unwilling Time has become, take a look at the July 14, 2008, issue: 10 reasons to like about $4 gas; the ins and outs of carbon sequestration; the green link at the G-8 summit; and quite a few others.
Apparently when Stengel took his stance on the AGW issue, he did it loudly, proudly, and in print. Now he's stuck with it. Journalists, with few exceptions, are not very good with mea culpas, and even if Stengel was so inclined his credibility as an editor/writer has now been completely discredited. Journalism is not about taking a position on any issue, but the reporting of all sides of it. Opinion has a legitimate role in journalism so long as it is identified as such and not an integral part of a “news” story.
"The Truth about Plastic" in the July 21 edition begins as a seemingly blasé puff piece, but about halfway into it Walsh reverses himself to toss in the usual scare tactics. Finding a scientist to give him the right quote, we're given a lesson on bisphenol (BPA):
Scientists like Yom Saal argue that BPA and phthalates are different from other environmental toxins like lead and mercury in that these plastic ingredients are endocrine disrupters, which mimic hormones. Estrogen and other hormones in relatively tiny amounts can cause vast changes, so some researchers worry that BPA and phthalates could do the same, especially in young children.
Animal studies on BPA found that low-dose exposure, particularly during pregnancy, may be associated with a variety of ills, including cancer and reproductive problems. Some human studies on phthalates linked exposure to declining sperm quality in adult males, while other work has found that early puberty in girls may be associated with the chemicals.
Yikes! Somewhat reluctantly Walsh admits that the "science is still murky." And according to the non-profit STATS, "Reduced sperm levels have been found in (where else?) Chinese vinyl workers, who happen to be exposed to massive levels of phthalates – but, crucially, there is no evidence, as yet, that they have suffered fertility problems as a consequence."
All of this brings up an interesting question: If plastic somehow becomes the DDT of the 21st century (banning based on fear and politics rather than facts), how do you replace something that our plastic-free lady Haegele even said "just seemed like it was in everything"?
Instead of plastic bags, do we switch to corn starch bags (made from a needed food staple) or paper (made from trees, our CO2-sucking machines)? Instead of plastic containers, do we use metal (heavy and costly to transport) or glass (fragile, heavy, costly to transport)? The list is endless. Everything from computers, iPods, toothbrushes, even boxed soap, uses plastic.
Some scientists are working on soybean-based biodegradable resin which decomposes at about the same rate as paper, but since the world uses plastic in 99.9% of everything, that's a lot of soybean and a lot of hungry people.
I'm no fan of plastic bags stuck on tree limbs or blown into the ocean where it eventually ends up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I don't care for the lack of recycling options available, nor am I happy that plastic requires sunlight to decompose. Many people are even unaware that plastic begins as oil.
That said, I'm even more disgusted and disappointed with Time's new direction since Stengel took the helm. I used to enjoy reading each issue, found the writing and graphics superb, and always renewed my subscription. Today the magazine can only be described as stale and little more than a bully pulpit for the environmental whackos that Stengel must have on speed dial. It is an abject lesson in bad journalistic standards or no journalistic standards.
For example, a study--now discredited--purportedly showed a link between man-made global warming and hurricane strength. Time published it with their usual Walshian fear mongering. Lately, newer and more respectable reports have shown hurricanes are not getting stronger, Katrina was not an anomaly, ocean temperatures have not increased, and a link between the two is far from proven. Time ignored it. In fact, I can't think of a single instance in which Time has given column space that even hints that the debate is far from over.
Week after week new studies and reports, all peer-reviewed, picked apart, and published in esteemed journals, contradict the assertion that the debate is settled. Time chooses to ignore them rather than report them. Reporting both sides of an issue is not a choice but a duty for all journalists.