STEM Friday

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Books

Eyes Wide Open – Going Behind the Environmental Headlines

eyes wide openEyes Wide Open: Going Behind the Environmental Headlines
by Paul Fleischman
208 pages; ages 14 +
Candlewick, 2014

Growing up with the first Earth Day, the birth of the EPA, and an emerging corps of environmental journalists it was no surprise that I ended up writing about science and environmental issues.

But now, concurrent with a growing awareness of climate change and increased protests against drilling, there’s an ever-decreasing number of environmental journalists on staff at news organizations – even as Congress whacks away at EPA (telling the agency it can’t use scientific data to base its findings on!)

This book could not come at a more critical time! And Fleischman does a great job of wrangling a huge amount of information into six readable chapters (plus scads of material at the back). Science is only part of the environmental story, he warns us. Turns out money is just as important. Where science tells us what nature is doing, money explains what people are doing. And “power and politics are bound up with money”.

Fleischman discusses Vested Interests, power, and politics. He talks about complexity and uncertainty, and how lobbyists can use those to sow doubt and prod people into denial about environmental problems. He shows how groups pouring money into pro-polluting campaigns can hide their identity and how language is used to instill fear. Take, for example, the labeling of protestors as “eco-terrorists”. With the use of one word, people peacefully protesting pollution are suddenly stripped of their rights to protest and treated as criminals.

One issue Fleischman raises is conflict caused by environmental stress. Climate change can bring too much rain and flooding to one place, too little rain to another. Drought-induced food shortages can create political conflicts as people leave their farms and try to move elsewhere. As arctic ice melts, the Arctic Sea could become a battleground between nations vying for oil and gas or other minerals now accessible.

Understanding the problems is important – but learning how to judge the media and weigh the information you uncover is vital. Fleischman includes a great guide on how to judge websites, print media, books – and even the journalists publishing the news. He gives readers the same tips editors give their cub reporters: Follow the money; beware of “mental” vested interests; and check for fallacies. The camera can lie, he says.

Back matter includes source notes, bibliography, resources, glossary, and a handy index.

STEM Friday

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Author: Sue Heavenrich

I write about science and environmental issues for children and their families.

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