Friday, May 12, 2017

Jewish reporters at major news sites worldwide focus ​on climate change, global warming issues

Photo by Yann Quero in France

Jewish reporters at major news sites worldwide
 focus ​on climate change, global warming issues

By staff writer, with agencies

Climate change and global warming impacts us all, and Jewish reporters have often been on the front lines of climate reporting, from George Monbiot in the Guardian newspaper to Andrew Revkin at the New York Times and now with Politico. At Think Progress, Joe Romm delivers sharply worded and well-researched diatribes against climate denialists and he doesn't mince words. And at the New York Times' recently reorganized Climate Desk under Alaska-born-and-raised Hannah Fairfield, veteran Times reporter John Schwartz covers national climate issues along with a team of top-notch journalists.

In France,
Raphaelle Leyris ​reports on climate issues and cli-fi novels at Le Monde newspaper in Paris.

Since global warming is a particularly vexing and complicated issue, it attracts reporters of all faiths unafraid to battle entrenched climate change deniers who populate the current Republican Party under the administration of President Donald Trump.

Even New York Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. is getting into the act.

According to Hadas Gold, a Revkin colleague at Politico, Sulzberger is completely behind his new hires at the Climate Desk and is adamant that his newspaper will continue to focus on climate change, including more photo essays about rising sea levels impacting cities worldwide, and environmental rules, regulations and other policies rolled back during Trump's first few months in office.

In addition, Gold noted, a recent issue of the Times glossy Sunday Magazine was dedicated to the future of the Earth's climate.

"This [climate] journalism [we do] is unrivaled in its sophistication and imagination," Sulzberger wrote in a recent message to readers. "The support of our subscribers is what allows us to pursue such ambitious stories all over the globe."

The Times offers readers a free online newsletter from its Climate Desk to keep track of future stories and insights.

​In related news, the unique ​Alaskan background of Times climate editor Fairfield is interesting and makes for a good story. She was raised in Fort Yukon by Episcopalian missionary parents who ministered to the ​spiritual and community needs of ​indigenous Gwich​'​in Athabascan population of the tiny rural village close by the banks of the mighty Yukon River. Fairfield spent her first 18 years there​,​ and in the university town of Fairbanks​,​ before going to college in the Lower 48 and later  joining the Times as a digital storyteller in 2000.​

Fort Yukon, population 600, where Fairfield spent the first four years of her life is populated by Native Alaskans whose ancestors have lived in Alaska for over 10,000 years.  Fairfield moved with her parents to Fairbanks to attend the local public schools, finishing high school in 1992.
In Fort Yukon, her parents and their four children lived in the Episcopalian mission church house and offered what services the church could, including baptisms, weddings and burials. They were one of the few white families in the village, and according to the family, the children cherished their time there.

Think things like Fairbanks at 60 degrees below for three weeks in the winter of 1989. Think life in a subsistence village of rural Alaskans whose ancestors go back centuries. Think boat trips on the Yukon in the summer, fishing for salmon, and yes, eating salmon. Lox!

So what does Alaska mean to this very well-placed climate journalist, Hannah Fairfield? And how has her experience growing up in a Christian missionary family in rural Alaska shaped her views  on nature, God and global warming?

Although a happy and dedicated New Yorker now, and loving it, old-timers in Alaska contend that once you live there you can never really let the place go in your heart and mind and soul -- or in your view of the way the world works. Ask any Alaskan, past or present. It's that kind of place. The Last Frontier.

I know this feeling because I lived in Alaska for 12 years in the late 1970s and 1980s -- mostly in Juneau but with two long winters in Nome -- and although I left the state in 1991, I still keep Alaska close in mind and my experiences there in fact led me to find a home later on in a growing cli-fi community of artists, writers, dreamers and climate activists.

Another thing I am looking forward to, hopefully, will be Fairfield's future policy of capitalizing the word "Earth" in Times' articles about climate change and global warming, since there is no reason on Earth to keep lowercasing it, as the newspaper does now.

It's not "earth Day" in April every year. It's "Earth Day," with a capital E. It's time for the New York Times to adjust their editorial style and start showing more respect for the Earth, our home planet.

Dean Baquet, the top editor at the Times, recently put it this way, in announcing Fairfield's new climate gig in a staff memo: 
''With Hannah's appointment, we aim to build on what has already been dominant coverage of climate change and to establish The Times as a guide to readers on this most important issue. The subject has taken on more urgency as the Earth's temperature continues to break records and a new political leadership in Washington appears poised to make sweeping changes to policies meant to limit carbon emissions."


A personal; heartfelt OPED on the rise of cli-fi
from the Jewish magazine ''TIKKUN'':


Tikkun magazine invites a climate activist of the literary to explain himself


A few weeks ago, I approached Rabbi Michael Lerner in California, the founder of Tikkun magazine, about writing a blog post for his publication, and he kindly invited me to send my piece in. A few days later, it was published, with the headline "A 'Cli-Fi Missionary' with Jewish Roots Who is Fighting Global Warming."

I started off the oped in a conversational way, writing: "I'm a climate change literary activist and gadfly, and I'd like to talk to you today about something I call cli-fi."

And then I told my story, parts of which are excerpted here, noting: "I'm close to 70, and I graduated from Tufts University in 1971 with a major in literature, and promoting the literary fortunes of cli-fi is now my life work. And I'm Jewish, and my Jewish education and family life in western Massachusetts in the 1950s and 1960s plays a central role, even today, in my climate activism.

''So what's cli-fi? It's a subgenre of sci-fi, according to some observers, and a separate stand-alone genre of its own, according to others. I feel that cli-fi novels and movies can cut through the bitter divide among rightwing denialists and leftwing liberals worldwide over the global warming debate. I'm not into politics; I'm into literature and movies.

''We are a world now divided bitterly over climate change issues. In my view of things, novels and movies can serve to wake people up in ways that politics and ideology cannot. That's where cli-fi comes in. In my late 60s, with a heart attack-related stent keeping my ticker ticking, and my days numbered now, I'm combining my Jewish heritage with its emphasis on social justice with my personal concerns about the future impacts of man-made global warming.

''As a Jewish person, I learned from an early age the need to look out for others and have empathy for the world at large. Climate change is the most important issue the humankind has ever faced. As a Jew, I cannot look away.

''Ten years ago, I coined a new literary term I dubbed 'cli-fi' for 'climate fiction' novels and movies. My coinage with its modelling of the sci-fi term, was picked up by reporters for the New York Times, the Guardian, the BBC and San Diego Jewish World where I write occasionally pen a freelance column about Jewish life and culture.

''In 2015, I set up a website called The Cli-Fi Report to broadcast my views about cli-fi and to gather feedback from literary critics and novelists around the world.

''I fund my work myself on a very small shoestring budget in my sunset years, but I had a father who left me an inheritance more important than money: a Yiddish term called 'menschlekeit.' And to be a PR guy for cli-fi in my late 60s is in direct gratitude for the good life I've had on this planet, and it's also my way of saying thanks to my dad and mom, Bernie Bloom from Avenue J in Brooklyn, and Sylvia Epstein Bloom from Blue Hill Avenue in Boston.

''What I want to say today, here in Tikkun, is thank you Bernie and Sylvia. You both taught me that it was important not only to be a mensch in one's daily life but also to try to help 'repair the world' -- tikkun olam in Hebrew.

''And for me, with my contribution of a new literary term to the world, that is what my work on the climate fight is all about: tikkun olam. I am not writing a book about cli-fi, I am not appearing on TV talk shows, and I am not making a documentary about my work. I am not interested in fame or money.

''And despite not having stepped foot in a synagogue for over 40 years,  I'm as Jewish as they come, and I recognize the importance of my Jewish heritage, first described in the second creation story in the Torah, to steward the Earth's resources. That's why I was inspired to coin and publicize the cli-fi term: to try to save future generations of humankind as global warming impact events make themselves felt worldwide more and more over the next 30 generations of man. I'm a visionary of sorts, but I don't hear supernatural voices. I only hear my parents saying to me: 'Danny, don't give up!'

''And so help me God, I'm never giving up.''

After the oped was published online, two responses from readers came in that resonated with me, one from a Jewish man in North America, and another from a Jewish man in Australia.

Richard Schwartz wrote: "Kudos to Dan Bloom. Since most people prefer fiction and movies to factual material, his approach could be a major help in increasing awareness about climate change, so important to help shift our imperilled planet onto a sustainable path.''

And Evan Shapiro, a novelist and public relations consultant in Australia, reached out to me in a longer reaction, writing:

''Thank you for sharing. It's a fascinating and well-outlined perspective. While I'm from Jewish decent, I wasn't brought up Jewish. My grandparents were observant, but both my parents declared themselves as atheists and gave my siblings and I a very liberal upbringing and education here in Australia. My feelings about being Jewish are by no means simple. There have been times in my life I've felt it keenly. There are particular aspects of my life that also make me feel very Australian, though by no means is that very traditional, either.  It's an interesting place to find yourself. As I get older, however, I feel more and more human and observant of social conditioning of all kinds that may or may not have affected my outlook. Appreciative of my background and upbringing but open to looking well beyond them, if that makes sense. It's that sense of humanity beyond the label, or perhaps beneath the label that drives me to communicate ideas of human compassion. From a human perspective, how can we not save our one and only precious planet? Thank you for sharing your honest and open article. I really enjoyed it.''



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