“Simultaneous harvest failures across major crop-producing regions are a threat to global food security”, according to a new report published by Nature. The technical jargon here references a “meandering jet stream” but, for non-specialists, what this means is that we can no longer rely on worse-than-average crop conditions in some places being cancelled out by better-than-average conditions in others.
Commenting on this in The Guardian, George Monbiot says that only five stories about this have appeared in the global media, which he contrasts with “more than 10,000 stories this year about Phillip Schofield, the British television presenter who resigned over an affair with a younger colleague”.
“In mediaworld, a place that should never be confused with the real world, celebrity gossip is thousands of times more important than existential risk”, says Monbiot.
This is a conundrum that affects issues beyond climate change, critically important though this obviously is. We can imagine busy people, with lives to lead and issues to confront, switching off in droves when the media turns to economics.
Moreover, they’re right to do this, if all that’s being presented to them is an outdated, fallacious doctrine which promises infinite growth on a finite planet, and claims that there’s a financial fix for every economic ill.
If it’s difficult for people to find time to think about a real issue like climate change, how can we expect them to take an interest in nonsense about infinite growth and the cure-all characteristics of money?
I’m writing this as the Surplus Energy Economics project closes in on its tenth anniversary.
To be candid about it, I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do next, but I can tell you my immediate plan.
This is the first of two planned articles to appear here. The second will try to sum up what I think we now know about the economy, understood as an energy system.
Here, I’m going to reflect on some of the implications that we can draw from what we know about the economy.
Of reality and perception
There are, of course, two ways in which we might explain the disparity of coverage between hard and important scientific news and the doings of people in the “mediaworld”. One is that ‘the powers that be’ who control the world’s media don’t want us to hear about – or worry and get angry about – threats to global food security.
The other is that the general public is simply more interested in stories about ‘slebs’ than in the complicated science and gloomy prognostications of the experts, and the media have a commercial interest in covering those stories which attract the greatest attention.