Segments of the environmental journalism blogosphere went ballistic for several days in mid-October over talk show host Rush Limbaugh’s suggestion that New York Times science reporter Andrew C. Revkin “go kill yourself and help the planet by dying.”
Limbaugh’s on-air assault was prompted by Revkin’s remark, at a public conference, that a growing global population poses risks for the climate and for more increases in carbon dioxide emissions.
Equating Revkin to unspecified “environmental wackos,” Limbaugh on October 20 told his national radio audience: “This guy from The New York Times, if he really thinks that humanity is destroying the planet, humanity is destroying the climate, that human beings in their natural existence are going to cause the extinction of life on Earth – Andrew Revkin. Mr. Revkin, why don’t you just go kill yourself and help the planet by dying?”
Amidst megabytes of hyperventilating on the blogosphere over whether – and how – some in the professional journalism community should (or should not) respond to such an on-air comment against one of its most respected environmental reporters, Revkin on his popular Dotearth blog appeared to want to stay somewhat above the fray and avoid his own unnecessary heavy breathing.
It wasn’t necessarily easy, though, and Revkin did suggest that the fiery talk show host – who also bloviated about “jihad guys” – owes his wife and son an apology.
Revkin said Limbaugh had taken off on a “thought experiment” he, Revkin, had initiated during a Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars seminar.
“I had talked, in part, about recent studies concluding that programs offering family planning information and services to women seeking smaller families, in essence, had a climate value by avoiding emissions of greenhouse gases that would come with more kids,” Revkin wrote on his blog.
Saying the notion is “obviously … just a thought experiment,” Revkin wrote that he had “mused on whether the next logical step, in a world increasingly fixated with carbon markets, would be carbon credits for avoided kids.
“As I put it in the Wilson event: ‘Should you get credit – if we’re going to become carbon-centric – for having a one-child family when you could have had two or three?’’”
National Public Radio media reporter David Folkenflik used the Limbaugh rhetoric as a news peg to get onto the network’s popular “Morning Edition” program a five-minute-plus segment* looking well beyond the conservative talk show host’s blast and focusing instead on Revkin’s own multi-media – in print, video, and online – reporting on climate change over some two decades.
*Disclosure: The Editor of The Yale Forum is among those interviewed as part of the Folkenflik broadcast.