NY Times Marks Earth Day: ‘I Need Help Arguing With My Denialist Uncle’

April 22nd, 2020 10:36 PM

The New York Times has run several off-key stories about supposed environmental bright sides and silver linings to the coronavirus pandemic, leveraging a real crisis for a hypothetical one.

Now on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, the paper urged readers to take advantage of their sudden new leisure time by reading environmental screeds, under the hectoring headline, “The Year You Finally Read About Climate Change.” Or rather, fantastical apocalyptic fiction about climate change. Of the 21 books recommended in the two-page spread in Wednesday Arts section, half (10) were works of fiction.

A heading over a non-fiction book recommendation, “I need help arguing with my denialist uncle” suggested the nonfiction left-wing screed Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway, sold via this politicized blurb:

Two historians of science, Oreskes and Conway, take a step back to understand the ways that science itself can be co-opted. They begin by looking at how the tobacco industry got scientists to refute studies that linked smoking and lung cancer, and move on to the pernicious role that right-wing think tanks have played in undermining the scientific data about acid rain and the ozone layer.

The latest and perhaps most dangerous of these campaigns has been waged against climate change. Oreskes and Conway detail how little known but well-funded groups like the Heartland Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute have managed to sow doubt on behalf of industries that don’t have an interest in confronting global warming.

The blurb also warned journalists off balanced presentations of the issue: “The authors also have another warning: In the interest of balance, journalists have sometimes propagated ideas that are false and harmful, inadvertently helping to spread confusion.”

The Science section had already gotten into the Earth Day act Tuesday, including a personal essay from the paper’s apocalyptic climate change reporter Somini Sengupta, “Is What I Do Important?” Songupta proves she’s less reporter than climate activist, standing shoulder to shoulder with Greta Thunberg:

Is there one fix we can make to avert a climate catastrophe? No. It is inevitable we will have to change much about how we live, for our own survival and the survival of others we don’t know. It’s a bit like what we’re doing to stop the coronavirus pandemic, except forever....individual action is a prerequisite for collective action. Without young individual activists, there would be no Sunrise Movement to camp out in the halls of Congress, nor would millions of children fill the streets of major world capitals, demanding that the adults in charge take swift climate action.

During the youth environmental protests in September 2019, Sengupta wrote the text of a photo story under the panicky headline: “This Is Our Terrifying World.” (Now the world truly is terrifying, but not because of global warming.)