I swear, I love National Public Radio but its efforts to negotiate modern American politics make it do things that drive me up the friggin’ wall.
You may already have heard of Lisa Simeone. Simeone has a show called Soundprint that is aired on NPR affiliates. She was fired (although after some resulting uproar she has since been reinstated) because members of the conservative blogosphere complained that she had been identified “as [an] Occupy DC leader in several news articles.” (I don’t know much about Occupy DC, but if it is anything like Occupy Wall Street this is rich because part of the ethos of the Occupy Movement is that it “doesn’t have leaders.”)
It is a cliche that National Public Radio is a hotbed of liberalism, but I listen to it all the time and – as a Liberal – I just don’t see it. (Hear it?) To me, it seems instead to work so hard trying to avoid that cliched image that it bends the other way. For listeners this often results in some truly mind-boggling dissonance.
For example, I cannot count the number of times I have literally been screaming at the radio in my car as some whacked-out no-name Conservative politician has been given airtime in which to declaim to the nation that climate change is “a myth.” It is at least the equal of the number of times I have screamed at my car radio as I listened to some pundit give the “contrarian” view on climate change – that is, the view that it is “a myth.”
NPR, you see, needs to present “both sides of the story.”
And then late yesterday afternoon, whilst driving to the grocery store, I was treated to an interesting report about The Future of Kiribati.
Ever heard of Kiribati (pronounced “Kir-i-bass”)? No? Well, I don’t blame you – few have. It is a very small island nation in the Pacific Ocean and is not known for being a national player on the world stage. I have never visited the nation, it being so far-flung and all, but it holds a special place in my heart for two reasons.
First, its capital is Tarawa Island. Tarawa was the site of one of WWII’s most bloody battles between Japanese and U.S. forces. The heavily fortified Japanese lost, but before they did they utterly decimated the U.S. Marines who were ordered to take the island. My home town is the home of Camp LeJeune, world’s largest Marine Corps base. One of the base’s neighborhoods, for servicemen and their families, is “Tarawa Terrace.” These days almost nobody knows where the name “Tarawa” comes from, but in fact it was named for all the men who died trying to capture that tiny atoll.
Second, Kiribati is the setting of J. Maarten Troost’s exceptionally funny, true-life account The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific. Seriously, do yourself a favor, click through, download this thing and read it. Wry, witty, humane . . . it will crack you up.
Anyway . . . . Yesterday NPR had a lengthy report about how Kirabati is looking for a new home. Rising sea levels, you see, are rendering this low-lying island nation uninhabitable. Uninhabitable today . . . not in 100 years, not in 50 years, but right now. A government spokesman spent some time explaining that the rising sea levels are swamping the islands’ fresh water sources and that they have been trying to construct sea walls to keep the rising oceans from encroaching but “they keep getting destroyed.”
The Kiribati people don’t wish to emigrate to and be assimilated by other nations, but instead want to maintain their own cultural and national identity. The point of the report was that they are contemplating purchasing and outfitting already existing oil drilling platforms to work as “man-made islands” on which they can maintain their nation.
That’s a remarkable and (to me, at least) fairly outlandish idea, but I think it pales before a more immediate, pressing fact: a nation is already, right now, being washed away by climate change.
And yet we won’t hear about any of this during the workweek or, indeed – and even on NPR – ever again. The science of climate change is still “up for discussion,” and you would be a fool and a communist to suggest that maybe . . . just maybe . . . we might think of doing something about it right now.