Thursday, 4 November 2010

What did Channel 4 get wrong?

If doubt is still anyone’s product, than What did the Green Movement Get Wrong successfully delivered it. The film’s primary purpose was to provide millions of Channel 4 viewers on November 4, 2010 with a number of extra reasons to be sceptical about the global environmental movement and its causes. Its sheer appearance on a national television network does not leave me too optimistic about the future of quality journalism, comprehensive and balanced television reporting in the UK.

As most sceptical media products of the day the film took off from climate change. Climate change, a few selected speakers in the film claimed, was the “real issue” which the environmental movement was losing the public opinion war on it. Because it had been unreasonably alarmist in the past; and unwilling to engage in “real debate”, they surprisingly explained. The meaning of ‘real’ in the film’s context became clear within seconds: one which tolerates nuclear energy as the only viable response to climate change. Immediately after this became clear, the so called documentary rolled into a series of allegations, each more monstrous than the other:

  1. Mischievous greens caused more harm by causing panic and psychoses over Chernobyl than the nuclear explosion there itself. In fact, the film’s authors claim, Chernobyl claimed only 65 lives – primarily of apparently not so important Soviet soldiers.
  2. Alarmist environmentalists pushed governments across the world to ban DDT, thus causing millions of malaria deaths in Africa, while knowing that DDT was the one and only way to deal with malaria, the film revealed.
  3. Quite inhumanly Western-based environmental NGOs like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, deluded the Zambian government into refusing a generous load of corn from the US at the coast of millions dying of hunger, just because it happened to be modified. If only did green NGOs really have the power to tell governments what to do!

Most of the interviewees of the film were carefully selected among renegade green activists, industry lobbyists and seemingly wealthy third world consultants, who coincidentally happened to favour lucrative technologies like nuclear and GMO. Not surprisingly by the end it transpired that it would not be enough for the green movement to change and be more reasonable. The film’s authors aspired more: it had to vanish. “New greens” were there to take its vacated place, they announced somewhere about midway. And in the grand finale an unashamedly suggestive voice-over narrated the main features required of the new green movement: it should be a broader movement, which does not only protects the natural world but human interests as well; and is realistic about the world’s energy needs, and accept nuclear as part of the solution.

This all might have even been taken serious, should it have been presented in at least slightly trustworthy of format. But it wasn’t. In an apparent attempt to offset criticism for offering an hour of prime time to low quality one-sided anti-environmental rhetoric, and boost viewer rating, Channel 4 arranged a live debate immediately after the broadcast. Speakers from Greenpeace, the FoE, the Guardian’s Monbiot, activists and scientists from the global South were allowed to display their arguments against two of the film’s main characters: Steward Brand and Mark Lynas. Another interviewee, the former Sierra Club US president Adam Werbach, was reported to have already taken the producers to court for misusing his words. But long before the court and relevant media regulator authorities deliver their verdict, the harm is already done – yet another media blow on the credibility of environmental causes has been dealt.

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