NBC and Brian Williams' Call to Action on Climate Change is Useless

David Shankbone/CC BY 2.0

When it comes to media coverage of global climate change, we at TreeHugger gripe a lot more about Fox News than any other network, and with good reason. But now it's NBC's turn, and specifically, Brian Williams'. In a spot for the network's "The More You Know" public service announcement series, the anchor shares his thoughts on going green, and they turn out to be a remarkably lame.

In the video, Williams says:

You could always tinfoil your house to reflect the Sun's rays back up into space to try to reduce climate change, but there are easier ways to go green, like turning off the lights when you leave the room. You can save the tinfoil for leftovers. The more you know.

I won't harp on the perceivable slight of rooftop solar paneling. But the lights advice is small-scale to the point of being utterly useless. Put another way: if you believe climate change is real (which Williams seems to), turning off the lights is not going to cut it. How about a plug for the smart grid? Or eating less meat, improved public transportation, or the switch to fluorescent light bulbs, for that matter?

Last week, Sami discussed the role of extremism in the environmental movement:

Our central aim must be to create widespread, mainstream cultural change. But what the Overton Window teaches us is that this cultural change sometimes happens by advocating for what is currently "politically unacceptable."

The problem is that the NBC/Williams call to action is so completely acceptable. First of all, turning off the lights is common sense. I'm sure the vast majority of people (even those who don't buy climate change) do it. Secondly, it's not going to make a real difference in terms of reversing the trend of climate change. We need to think big, maybe even Newt Gingrich big.

Celebrities have said some pretty crazy things about the environment; those comments all served to spark a debate about what the government and individuals should be doing or not doing to reduce pollution and resource consumption. The NBC PSA, on the other hand, was symbolic, an empty gesture: support the planet by doing nothing of note.

In Williams' defense, we've given him credit before for providing cogent and correct reporting on evidence of climate change. No one is demanding he be the poster boy of sustainability, but if he's going to take a stance, he should make it a real one. Not a cop out.

Tags: Celebrities

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