Scientists Face Death Threats, Democracy at Risk

[A personal note from Stephen]

There’s something strange in the air when a highly-respected US scientist says he or a colleague will likely be killed for saying climate change is happening.

That’s what Stanford’s Stephen Schneider told me last week. He’s not an alarmist, he’s a pro with 40 years under his belt. These days climate scientists receive all kinds of hate mail and even death threats. I even get hate mail. Bizarre times.

At the same time traditional media are complicit, giving ‘face time’ to those who smear scientists with no evidence, just nonsensical conspiracy allegations. Schneider says simply:

I’m pretty damn angry that media companies are putting profits ahead of truth. The media are deeply broken… That’s a real threat to democracy.”

I couldn’t agree more. We’re in a dangerous trap. Schneider, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chair, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and many other experts have recently told me: ‘we need people like you to write about these issues’.

I could do far more but my time is largely gobbled up trying to figure out how to put bread on the table. Last year writing about these issues put my family $10,000 in the red despite about $4000 in donations which mostly went towards travel costs. (And we have a pretty modest lifestyle, living in my in-law’s basement apt)

Put plainly, writing honestly about important issues is not rewarded in our current economic system, even though it’s in our best interests. Writing junk mail to sell crap that people don’t need is rewarded 100X more. (I know, I used to do it)

Community Supported Journalism

Community Supported Journalism is the only way forward that I can see. That means reciprocity: You help support the investigation, research, writing about what’s important for all of us to know so we can make informed decisions. In an earlier age I would have come to your village, taught your children and told you useful stories about what I’d learned from wise elders in other villages. Today I send out those stories to you and many others in our global village and rely more and more on you to provide the financial equivalent of a place to sleep and a meal to eat.

Reciprocity, co-operation and community are some of the key values we need to escape the trap we are in.

On a practical level supporting or funding individual story ideas isn’t working mainly because it takes too much time to put together and generate support. It’s not nimble enough to respond to breaking news, but it could work for larger, long term projects. Instead what’s needed is ‘bread and butter’ funding — contributions that help cover the everyday costs of living and doing environmental journalism.

A “Bread and Butter Environmental Journalism Support Fund” if you will. That fund will need about $15,000 in 2010 for the work to continue.

It has taken me three days to find the words to ask because it is a lot of money. Please consider $50, $100 or more — less than cost of a newspaper or cable TV subscription — for coverage of important issues that shape our world and our future.

Contributions can be made safely and easily via PayPal or Credit Card. Or  contact me at writersteve [AT] gmail [DOT] com (no spaces) to send a cheque.

Please also pass this along to interested family, friends and organizations. My continued appreciation to those who have contributed in the past.

Thanks and best wishes, Steve

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