Image: Earth at Night, NASA
SPECIAL EDITION: Words of Power Interviews Alex Smith of Radio Eco-Shock
By Richard Power
Radio Eco-Shock is an excellent example of the kind of alternative media and citizen journalism that is playing a vital role in creation of the broad, global progressive movement needed to not only save the planet and civilization, but move human evolution forward. It's the "Net's largest green audio download site, and only 24 hour enviro radio station." In this Words of Power interview with Alex Smith, the host of Radio Eco-Shock, we explore both the role and the mission. (To hear Alex Smith's radio interview with me, concerning global warming as a national security threat, click here.) -- Richard Power
Words of Power: One of the most striking and disturbing aspects of the state of denial about global warming in the USA is that it draws its power from the US mainstream news media, which has no sense of proportion or priority in regard to this planetary crisis, or its direct impact on the USA's own weather particularly this year and over the last few years. This phenomena is evident in the headline stories, as well as in the weather segments of network, cable and local TV news broadcasts. How is Canadian news media handling issues related to climate change and global warming, any better than in the USA?
Alex Smith: Canadian media has striking differences from American coverage, when it comes to climate change. Let me make a few quick points. In the early years of Canadian media, there were no private television stations. The government provided all funding for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation - state media, if you will. The "CBC" continues, at relative arms length from the government, but still heavily subsidized by it, in both television and radio. In the countryside, the CBC may still be the only channel available, while large cities have "competition" from just a couple of Canadian-owned media empires. Add to this, an in-born resistance to American propaganda - which Canadians must develop, in order to have any identity at all. Perhaps as a result, both public and private major media outlets - television, radio, and newspapers - would seem wildly "liberal," compared to almost all American media. We have a lot more programs which openly accept human-induced climate change. Some even invite us to think and act on it. "Our" Arctic is melting. Our outdoor winter sports are threatened. In fact, the further North you go, the deeper the impact of climate change, the more visible it is. Canadians, in their personal experience, have difficulty doubting that warming is happening. And our media reflect this. There is still a lot of bull, dancing around, and a blind eye to endless car advertising revenues, but the coverage is more real here. Also, in part due to historical Canadian attachments to both Britain and France, our media has a more European outlook. We hear more advanced European views on climate, and government action, which are seldom, if ever, reported to the American people.
Words of Power: Following up, clearly the role of alternative news media, citizen journalism, Internet radio, the blogosphere, podcasting, etc. -- both globally and domestically in both of our countries-- is going to be vital. Could you talk about the challenges and opportunities of being an alternative news media purveyor? What are the greatest difficulties? What are the relative strengths and weaknesses? What is the situation like for alternative news media in Canada?
Alex Smith: Canadians were quick to adapt to the Internet - even faster than in America. Maybe it's because we have fewer people, wanting to communicate over big distances. We are relatively affluent. Most Canadians can afford, and own, computers, Ipods, fast Net connections. Again, as a self-protection against American media dominance, Canadians have developed a lot of alternative media. Still, the challenge for all "Indie" producers, in the U.S.A., Canada, or anywhere else, is getting to a reasonable audience share. Even the big networks in the States are stumbling over this, as the audience diverges into millions of semi-private channels. We now have individuals who operate their own 24-hour Net radio stations, as I do at Radio Ecoshock - plus producing original material. Others are developing their own video channels, through YouTube, and many other outlets. I noticed Al Gore being honored at the Emmy Awards, for developing viewer-made video - that will replace all the assembled actors and corporate producers! The opportunities and challenges come from the same instability, the unknown and fast-acting future, in digital times.
Words of Power: Following up on the second question, it occurs to me that this sea change is sweepingly global and uniquely local at once, at that existing institutions, in particular the mainstream news media and political parties, are not really up to the paradigm shift that is required, we are all going to have to connect across borders, cultures, ideologies, etc. and discover both collectively and individually new ways to evolve and advance. Thoughts?
Alex Smith: I've just been following the career of a fellow who ran two "Foundations,"and two virtual corporations, which were really just networks of people connected by email. The company headquarters for all this was on a boat. Is that cheating? Or, is that the new reality? Mainstream media is developing a clue. Various corporate board rooms are nervously hiring young people who know how to game. But many of those young heads don't vote. The political parties are a competition of gray-hairs, all playing cards dealt in the 1950's. Look at the recent political debates in the United States. You would never know that record floods and heat waves are ripping up the country. Eight years ago, Al Gore didn't dare raise his specialty, climate change, in the 2000 elections. It still isn't even on the menu. We'll all go down, literally through Hell and High Water, before a major political party offers the people any way out of this carbon mess. Believe it or not, Washington is becoming irrelevant.
Words of Power: Tell me about your personal journey? How did you get into this role? What led you to launch Eco-Shock and under what circumstances?
Alex Smith: In the mid-1970's, it appeared that America and the Soviet Union might blow up the world with nukes, even if just by accident. I left to raise a family in the country. By the late 1980's, it looked like humanity might scrape through, with enough sanity. Now, we've discovered that a seemingly harmless power - even just the joy of driving and flying around - is enough to tip a delicate atmospheric balance. I've loved the freedom to travel, and all the toys we have. But I love Nature, and my kids, more. Several years ago I worked for one of the largest environment organizations. That was my schooling. I decided that I had to keep passing on news of the developing situation. I was an early computer user, and found out I could broadcast over the Net. Three years later, I now have my own old-fashioned regular radio show, rebroadcast on about a half dozen college and community radio stations, so far, in addition to various Net distribution systems. "Ecoshock" is where we are. Our situation is shocking - and we are in a state of shock, just as though we were in a terrible car accident. We haven't begun to think straight about a deplete planet, in rapid climate change. I hope I am helping people to do that.
Words of Power: Anything else you would like to add?
Alex Smith: Should we wake the dreamers, if reality threatens to become a nightmare? In addition to "The Matrix," I recommend the old Charlton Heston movie "Soylent Green." Rent it from your local video store. That's where we are going, unless there is a "great awakening" soon. I think the mainstream media has become toxic, poisonous to real inner development, and poisonous to the environment. When you hear the word "record" in every weather forecast, and the perfect face forgets to mention climate change, you are being conned - set up for the car commercial coming up next. Every time we dream those consumer dreams, while new refugee camps form somewhere in the world, a little bit of us dies, inside. We can only reclaim ourselves, and the environment, at the same time. There is no life without plenty of other living things.
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Global Warming, Energy Security, Environmental Security, Alternate Energy, Sustainability, Green Power, Renewable Resources, Climate Change, Weather, Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth,Laurie David, Stop Global Warming!, News Media, Alternate Media, Internet Radio, Richard Power, Words of Power