Mike Parfit: “It’s a cynical pursuit of financial stability.”


Posted at The Missoulian on May 2,2013.
Read the whole story by reporter Rob Chaney here.

Objective Nonsense (part 31)

Remember the claim made by Chris Johns, Editor of National Geographic, that the Magazine has “no agenda”? It was part of an Editor’s Note in which Chris insisted that in “a world of shrill voices and agendas, we at National Geographic are committed to an unbiased presentation of facts. … It’s what we’ve been doing for more than 120 years.”

In our ongoing rebuttal to Chris’s unsupportable claim, we present this excerpt from “Yellow Fever: A hundred and twenty-five years of National Geographic,” an essay by Adam Gopnik that appears in next week’s edition of The New Yorker:


 { The full version is behind a paywall here. }

Given that our Society has promoted this “agenda” for more than a century, why would Chris insist we didn’t have an agenda, and say so on such a public stage? Why would he distance himself, the Magazine, and the Society from its own history? Why pretend?

Because pretending opens the door to China.

Chris Johns Terry Adamson China National Geographic Liu Xiaobo

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate NGM’s new publishing partnership in the People’s Republic of China. (2007)


Postscript: In this video from Russian TV (below), Terry Adamson admits what Chris Johns won’t, but you can tell Terry doesn’t like saying it out loud and in public. Listen for: “… it may have been somewhat the case.” (Adam Gopnik has no such doubts.)

“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

John Fahey, Chairman & CEO of National Geographic,
in a national radio interview 
on March 30, 2012:


November 12, 2012:c21media_NatGeoChannel_Yukon_Gold_mining_reality_tv

January 17, 2013: gold_mining_yukon_gold_NYTimes_oped

Dear John:

John Fahey National Geographic

What do Jill Abramson & Dean Baquet grasp that John Fahey & Chris Johns do not?


 Read the whole thing here.

Why the “green economy” can be a death sentence for poor people in the developing world


That quote echoes very familiar themes: sustainable development… scarcity… environmental risk… economy for the future. Say those words aloud, and you’re practically reading from the National Geographic playbook, with its noble goal “to inspire people to care about the planet.”

But here’s why a laser focus on all things Green — especially climate change — is becoming a life-threatening problem, at least for poor people who live in the global south:


If you read only one article
about climate change and the environment this year

(and there are only a few days left)
read this one.
It’s an eye-opener. 

You can find the whole piece here.


Dear John:
What are your thoughts
about this environmental dilemma?

John Fahey National Geographic

Related post: Befriending Thugs Who Love The Planet
(OR: Save the trees & to hell with democracy)

Green (adjective): environmentally aware, ecologically friendly; also: unworldly, simple, amateurish, naive

Terry Garcia goes to China
and delivers a speech that leaves us
(almost) speechless.

Did you know that people in China
prefer locally grown food?
And live near “their usual destinations”?
And embrace renewable energy sources?
They also love bike-sharing!

It’s all true, says Terry,
citing the Greendex,
National Geographic’s sustainability survey.

“Can China go green?” Terry asks his captive audience.
The answer, he says, “is an emphatic yes.”

In other news: 

{ Read the entire report from Freedom House here. }

{ Read the full BBC story here. }

(All these evictions no doubt move Chinese citizens
closer to what Terry Garcia calls “their usual destinations,”
which is great news for the Greendex… and The Planet.)


Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate NGM’s new publishing partnership in the People’s Republic of China. (2007)

The Information Glaze

Information is not enough

A brief Twitter exchange with David Roberts of Grist Magazine.

Storified by Alan Mairson · Wed, Jun 20 2012 23:46:49

On Monday, the New York Times published this editorial:
Earth AgonistesOn Wednesday, world leaders will gather in Rio de Janeiro to review progress made in the 20 years since the 1992 U.N. Earth Summit and ho…
” … and hopefully to chart a new path toward a more sustainable future. Protecting the planet and its people must be their first priority.”
And so on. 
Which prompted this exchange with David Roberts (@drgrist) of Grist Magazine:  
I agree with editorials like this – http://is.gd/Vf69nM – but honestly, they’re so familiar now, so rote, that I glaze over.David Roberts
@drgrist As does everyone else. But what’s Plan B?Alan Mairson
@AlanMairson A renewed focus on the dirty, amoral mechanisms of political power?David Roberts
@drgrist If the challenge for Greens is a political one, then what do you make of 1st video here: http://bit.ly/Lyn5oS >> 1/2Alan Mairson
Bringing value and making a difference: CEO of National Geographicibmibv
@drgrist 2/2 Head of major Green org who says the challenge really is information & understanding. Any reaction?Alan Mairson
@AlanMairson He is wrong.David Roberts
David’s response reminds me of this observation by Neil Postman: 
Neil Postman on Informationsocietymatters
Which is to say: Another NGM story about melting glaciers might provide some exciting photo ops and more information, but it will do nothing to help us solve the serious environmental challenges that confront us.  

The secret to National Geographic’s success

To: John Fahey, Chairman & CEO of the National Geographic Society
Re: The problem with your Green strategy

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, you said:

Precisely. But this isn’t news, John. What is news is your decision to adopt a mission statement — to inspire people to care about the planet — that focuses on a subject that isn’t of interest to many readers of National Geographic.

You’ve built an international media strategy around a subject that’s politically palatable to, say, the gatekeepers in China (who love cheetahs). Unfortunately, the current members of the Society — the people who are already paying to receive the Magazine — are bored by what you’re publishing. In fact, many of them hate it.

What’s the option? Here’s a lesson from our Society’s history, which rings as true today as it did in the 1960s:

With Vosburgh and Mel Payne running National Geographic, the semi-retired Melville Grosvenor had time to enjoy his second family. He and Anne bundled their teenage son, Eddie, and their young daughter, Sara, on marathon voyages of the White Mist, a yawl that became a familiar fixture in National Geographic. Readers were treated to Chairman Melville’s lengthy articles in the Greek isles, the Canadian coast, and other vacation spots, thoroughly and ably documented with photographs by Eddie, the clan’s newest photographic talent. Vosburgh rearranged whole issues to accommodate these sea stories, but he balked at delaying an article on the solar system to make room for a White Mist voyage up the Hudson to the St. Lawrence River.

“I’ll need at least 55 pages,” Melville told Vosburgh.

“But Melville, that’s more than we’re giving the whole solar system,” said Vosburgh.

“Yes,” said Melville, “but there are no people out there.”

– from Explorers House, by Robert M. Poole, p. 256

People. Not “the planet[s].” 

Which means our Society should be doing much less of this:

And much more of this:

From "China's Youth Wait for Tomorrow," National Geographic magazine, July 1991

The downside to focusing on freedom and democracy: The gatekeepers in China will probably revoke our license to publish there.

The upside: Millions of other people will (re) discover the Society — and (re) join the adventure.

Turning our back on people we once embraced

Stories like this….

…once mattered to our Society:

Sadly, National Geographic has moved on:

Chris Johns & Terry Adamson celebrate NGM's new publishing partnership in the People's Republic of China. (2007)

But even John Fahey knows
there’s something wrong with the Green picture
he’s been trying to render at NGS —
the picture that helped us get into China in the first place.

From a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal:

Exactly right.
National Geographic, at its best,
is not about air or water or cheetahs.
It’s about people.


Dear John:
Didn’t you used to be a U2 fan?

Chris Johns channels the spirit of Jack Handey (minus a funny punch line)

“We know the climate and contours of the planet are changing,” said Chris Johns, editor in chief of National Geographic magazine. “How we adapt to these new parameters is a fundamental challenge we all face, and our success or failure will determine our future.”

Unarguably true.

NO NEW POSTS will be published here after February 6, 2014. THIS IS WHY.