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Reporting and commentary from OnEarth editors and correspondents
Of all places, I just read in a summer issue of "Bark" magazine in the vet's waiting room that Triclosan, the ubiquitous antimicrobial agent found in handsoaps and everything else might be acting like an endocrine disruptor. It appears that Congressman Ed Markey (D, Massachusetts) asked the FDA to speed up its review of Triclosan just last week, as reported in the Washington Post ( That would seem to be a story on the same level as the BPA stories of a few years ago, but seems to be flying under the radar for now.
Good catch, Kendall. I've read about overuse of antimicrobials creating bacterial resistance, but this is the first I'm hearing of Triclosan as a potential endocrine disruptor.
A couple under-reported story nominations submitted via Twitter: "How about daily car usage by a hundred million people worse than oil spill?" from @glen_mcan "Loss of green jobs funding" from @Cocoxochitl
Great article on how much important environmental and conservation news gets ignored by mass media. As a graduate student studying interactive media I wrote a paper regarding this exact issue for my Citizen and Participatory News class. If interested here's a link to the paper: I interviewed local biology and environment researches about their opinions and outlook regarding how science is reported in today's big media. Thank you for highlighting this issue and pointing out why such stories are important to our well being as humans. Sincerely, Sean H. Smith
Thank you, Sean. It's great that you're producing some original research on how science is reported in the news media -- the highs and lows of this are a regular discussion topic at the annual Society of Environmental Journalism meetings. (The lows, in particular, are a regular reason among some of my freelance friends to have just one more drink...) I hope you'll consider doing some journo-blogging here, using our OnEarth community tools. It would be a great way to put what you're learning out there for more people to see -- complete with byline.
For me the most under reported story of 2010 has to deal with the Texas Commission on Enviromental Quality under reporting hazards that effect the citizens of Texas: First example "TCEQ Fesses Up: More Benzene Data Withheld from Public " Second example "Texas Commission on Environmental Quality under-reported the amount of radiation found in drinking water provided by communities all across Texas." A side note to the Benzene Data Withheld, a blog has obtained and published notes from a TCEQ inspector , handwritten notes, obtained through open records request, pertain to TCEQ's Barnett Shale Phase IV air monitoring that "benzene needs to pass" and "Wear respirator when needed but if media is around wait to take samples"
Sorry it's taken me a while to reply. This Texas CEQ sounds like it's really worth reporting on...are there local papers or journalists taking it up, that you know of?
Those are all excellent picks. I'd missed the graphene story entirely. To me, the biggest lack in coverage is pieces that help put together the big picture. What will it take to effectively address the energy situation? It's easy to get focused on tiny pieces of things -- how long our showers are, say -- while losing track of the national-level effort needed.
I agree, Julie. The absence of a coherent U.S. national energy policy is a huge story.
What about the under-reported science of human population dynamics and human overpopulation of the Earth? Many too many experts have consciously and willfully chosen NOT to openly discuss the root cause(s)the global predicament resulting from human overpopulation of the Earth because they did not think it would be helpful, I suppose. But look at what silence during the last 60 years has wrought. Elective mutism by so many experts regarding outstanding empirical research of certain human population issues, particularly human population dynamics, has effectively and perniciously vanquished science. This outcome could be the most colossal failure of nerve in human history. The consequences of this incredible mistake do not simply threaten a civilization with collapse. Collapses of civilization have occurred before. Sometimes on a smaller scale and other times on a larger one. But at no time in history can I find records of the precipitation of a human-driven collapse with such profound implications not only for a civilization, but also for life as we know it and the integrity of Earth as a fit place for human habitation. The ‘brightest and best’, most knowledgeable people, those in positions of much influence and great power, have not spoken out loudly, clearly and often enough. When scientific knowledge is deludedly regarded as a threat to human wellbeing, and intellectual honesty, moral courage and personal accountability are everywhere eschewed, how on Earth do we ever give ourselves so much as a chance of mitigating damages, much less “solving” problems for which we bear a large share of responsibility? I do not know what the future holds for the children. I am hoping they will find ways to muddle through. If they manage to do so, it will likely not be the result of the efforts of those in my not-so-great generation of elders. We have failed them so far “on our watch” and will continue to do so as long as we continuously choose to keep doing the same unsustainable overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities we adamantly advocate and relentlessly pursue in our time, I suppose. Silence will not save anyone from anything, and surely will not save humanity from itself. The human-induced global predicament that looms before the human family today has been allowed to rampantly grow in my lifetime from a challenge that was manageable to a leviathan of a much more forbidding size. With every passing day, the worldwide challenges resulting from, and driven by, the overconsumption, overproduction and overpopulation activities of the human species become larger, more formidable and much more difficult to address and overcome. The demand characteristics of this unprecedented situation appear to require the active involvement of "all hands on deck". We have to stop denying what is visible to naked eyes as well as ignoring that which we need to confront, and immediately begin changing the 'trajectory' of the predominant civilization from what is soon to become patently unsustainable to an alternate path marked by sustainable lifestyles and right-sized human enterprises. Steven Earl Salmony AWAREness Campaign on The Human Population, established 2001
“Talk of the Nation Special on Population January 6” What an opportunity! It is the willful and pernicious silence of so many experts as well as broadcasts of ideological idiocy by clever sychophants and duplicitous minions of the wealthy and powerful for the past 60 years that make the mere chance for an intellectually honest and morally courageous conversation on “Talk of the Nation” so potentially valuable now here. Opportunities like this one have been occurring for many years but were routinely missed. A catastrophic failure of nerve by many too many of ‘the brightest and best’ among us who chose, instead of presenting scientific research as was their duty, to foster belief in erroneous preternatural theories; to say whatsoever was politically convenient, economically expedient and socially agreeable; to go along with global gag rules as well as ignore and censor exchanges of sound perspectives regarding human population dynamics and human overpopulation of the Earth. This failure could be one of the great mistakes in human history. I fear our children will come to see it in just that way. The growth of the human species worldwide could be the proverbial “mother” of human-induced global challenges. If that is so, then failing to acknowledge this predominant challenge will render efforts of humanity to overcome other human-driven, increasingly complex challenges to human wellbeing and environmental health ultimately irrelevant, I suppose. Please consider that both those who believe human population numbers are exploding and those who believe human numbers are collapsing are correct. Globally, human numbers are undoubtedly increasing, but in some places on the surface of Earth human numbers can easily be seen decreasing. It depends upon your scope of observation. I am perceiving and thinking globally when I report human numbers are skyrocketing. In a similar manner, I can certainly recognize that human numbers in many places (eg, Italy) have been declining. But in order to make that report it is necessary for me to change my scope of observation. Imagine that a change in one’s scope of observation is like the difference between looking at the forest or the trees. Looking at the forest is like looking at absolute global human population numbers; whereas, looking at the trees is like looking at the population numbers in a place like Italy. Global human numbers can be increasing, while the human population numbers in Italy are decreasing. So much of the Earth’s environs are being degraded and so many of its natural resources dissipated. So many people are coming. So much time has been wasted. So many opportunities missed. Time is precious….and short. Windows of opportunity are closing, one after another at an accelerating pace. Let us agree not to let this “Talk of the Nation” opportunity be another missed opportunity like so very many others in my lifetime. We could begin this week by talking to all nations. After all, what are we waiting for? The clock to run out of time, so as to relieve us of human distinctly human responsibilities we can assume and duties only human beings with feet of clay can perform?
You're not the first person to mention population growth/questions to me as an under-reported story. It strikes me though, as a journalist, that just saying "population" takes it beyond the realm of news stories and into investigative reporting. So for this list, I went for discrete stories (the Pakistan floods) or finite events (i.e. the Nobel Prize awards), rather than really broad "issues that need our attention."
Another suggestion via Twitter, from @Barbara_Fraser: That preventable diseases like cholera still kill 1000s every year, not just in Haiti but elsewhere, esp. Africa & parts of Asia.