Why doesn’t the environment receive more media attention?

By: Sarah Tyrrell

I would consider myself fairly up-to-date with current events. I utilize a few different news apps on my phone, I tune into Morning Edition on my way to class and I have absolutely turned into that person who listens to podcasts as she works out. For the hell of it, I took a Pew Research Center quiz testing my “news IQ” and I only missed one question, which should show that I’m decently versed in today’s news.

But I did miss that one question. And I don’t know everything that is happening in all corners of the world—but who does? We don’t have to know everything, but I’d argue that as adults we should be aware and capable of discussing those top current events at least on a surface level. How is anyone supposed to take your opinion seriously if you are not actively remaining informed?

So, if I happen to be staying actively informed via skimming Yahoo News in the morning, or even skimming The Skimm, then, I’d argue, it is the responsibility of those major news outlets to provide me with those top most important stories. Period.

Unfortunately, so much airtime and so many news postings have been dedicated to this pop-culture phenomena that media has evolved into this nonsensicality. Today most people read “North West” and think of a celebrity’s child rather than the Pacific Northwest, Cascadia or that dense microbrewing region.

In exchange, there are some stories that never bubble up to the surface of national news worthiness, whether they are deserving of circulation or not. Unfortunately, many of these stories happen to be in relation to the environment or science.

The environment, however, gets a free pass when it comes to natural disasters. Floods, hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis and mudslides that result in destruction and sometimes casualties are the type of stories that draw viewers in, and I say viewers because people like to see this kind of news televised so that they can visually get a sense for what is going on.

There was a natural gas well blowout in California, which was originally reported Oct. 23, 2015. Over the course of four months over 100,000 tons of methane leaked into the atmosphere until the well was sealed Feb. 11, 2016. According to researchers at

For starters, right now in the US natural gas has a decent reputation. We love us some methane. Often advertised as burning cleaner than coal, natural gas is presently one of our least expensive energy resources. For this reason, among others, not many people want to put methane in a bad light.

When the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred in 2010, two letters came up in almost every headline and most certainly in every news source: BP.

What company is responsible for the natural gas well blow up in Aliso Canyon, California? SoCalGas. This might sound unfamiliar, as its name has somehow managed to slide under the radar of the general public. Maybe in California its name has been scorned, but nationally they did not receive nearly as much negative press as BP did in 2010.

Furthermore, this man-made disaster likely received less media attention because, visually, it lacked stimulation. There was no fire, nothing obscenely dramatic or extraordinary to televise.

How long could this be reported on without new information surfacing that the general public could comprehend? Answer: Not very long.

In the grand scheme of things, this one leak was not about to cause an atmospheric spike. Although, maybe if it had, we would be seeing some proactive legislation with the hope of preventing another leak. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since coming to college, it’s that our government is both passive and reactive.

Regardless of all of these factors: the oil spill not being an instantly consequential disaster; its lacking majorly in the visual storytelling department; our current love affair with natural gas; and our country’s overall apathetic nature toward environmental news, we cannot keep turning our heads away from these problems simply because it’s the easier thing to do.

Doing what is easy in this century is not going to cut it. We are going to be paying for the consequences of all the “easy” decisions made, with very little regard to our future, by those who came before us. That’s over and done with; there is nothing we can do to prevent what is coming but what we can do is learn how to cope. We need to plan and take action, and the first step is becoming informed.

I’m not alone in wanting more environmental news coverage. According to the Public Opinion Research Corporation in a poll commissioned by the Project for Improved Environmental Coverage, “79% of Americans believe news coverage of the environment should be improved. 

I realize that environmental issues are never going to be the sexiest thing to report on or read about and that some of these realities are terrifying and overwhelming, but for the latter qualities, the environment is worthy of media reporting and the public’s attention.



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