What, then, do Chinese authorities want journalists talking about? Cheetahs.


Meanwhile, at our Society:
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)

Rupert Murdoch laughs John Fahey National Geographic

The Damage


Pierre Omidyar is the founder and chairman of eBay, and founder of the Omidyar Network, an investment firm that fosters economic advancement and encourages individual participation across multiple investment areas, including microfinance, property rights, and government transparency.


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)

Read how Chris Johns, Editor of National Geographic magazine,
self-censored when the (Chinese) government began watching our Society.

If National Geographic refuses to speak out
about the ongoing house arrest of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo,
then what Chinese topics is it okay for our Society to address in public?
Evidently, stuff like this:



Remembering Tiananmen

Today is the 24th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square democracy protests,
and the suppression and slaughter of democracy activists
by the Chinese government:

Once, we did remember this tragedy
(from NGM July 1991) :

But not anymore:
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)

James Cameron, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence

James Cameron, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence

John Fahey National Geographic


Here comes our Society’s new membership platform

{ click to enlarge }Catherine_Karnow_we_are_explorers_email

Dear Catherine,

Thank you for your warm welcome. I’m delighted to be part of the National Geographic Society’s team of explorers, and honored to be considered a colleague of yours.

As I looked through your body of work, I was especially impressed by this social documentary project:

The Agent Orange story is obviously one that’s of great importance to you. My particular interest is the oppression of political dissidents in China. I’ve blogged about it quite a bit here. And as you probably know, National Geographic magazine once took subjects like freedom and human rights very seriously.

I’d like to share my work with other Society members who have joined our new community of digital explorers.

How might I do this? Where may I post my work on the NGS website? How can I get in touch with other Society members who also care about human rights, freedom, and democracy? Does the NGS site have tools that enable people to find one another based on common interests? And how can we take these virtual communities that are beginning to form and bring them alive in real life?

Because I firmly believe in what you say in your message (above): “Working together, we can discover more and make a bigger difference.” (I said very much the same thing back in 2009.)

Looking forward to hearing from you — and to working with you.

all the best,

Fidelity to what makes us a society


From President Obama’s Second Inaugural Address:

Each time we gather to inaugurate a president, we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution. We affirm the promise of our democracy. We recall that what binds this nation together is not the colors of our skin or the tenets of our faith or the origins of our names. What makes us exceptional – what makes us American – is our allegiance to an idea, articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today we continue a never-ending journey, to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth. The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.

For more than two hundred years, we have. … 

 We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths – that all of us are created equal – is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. …

You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course.

You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time – not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.

Let each of us now embrace, with solemn duty and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history, and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom. …

 In other words: Join The Adventure

(Based on the video teaser for National Geographic’s Great Migrations.)

John Fahey National Geographic

The waning power of The Brand

When John Fahey arrived at National Geographic in the mid-1990s, he spoke frequently and with great conviction about the power of the National Geographic Brand. Protect the brand… leverage the brand… capitalize on our brand equity… the word has been the cornerstone of his strategic plan for our Society for more than 15 years.

So it was a great surprise to read this story — and this quote from John:


So much for the primacy of The Brand.

The good news is: John is right. And the question he asks is critical: What is National Geographic trying to bring that is unique?

The answer can’t be “good stories” or “great science journalism” or even “outstanding photography” because all those things can be found all over the web, in enormous quantity, for free.

The answer can’t be our history of exploration because that doesn’t speak to our present — or future.

And the answer can’t be expeditions such as James Cameron’s recent deep-sea dive because (a) it revealed nothing much that was new, (b) we can’t afford to launch such expeditions often enough to create profitable content, and (c) James Cameron is an embarrassment.

But here’s a viable and compelling adventure story upon which we can build a future: For 125 years, National Geographic has told the story of the West meeting the world — and it’s a drama that’s still underway. Perhaps the story’s most exciting element is that we — the citizens of free, open, and democratic societies — are both observers and participants. We’re not simply watching The Democracy Story unfold, we’re living it. We’re creating it. We all have a role to play, and each one of us has been blessed with a speaking part.

Imagine, then, if John Fahey stood up in the pages of our Society’s official journal and said something like this:

The skills needed by good journalists — the ability to ask incisive questions; to evaluate information; to communicate clearly — are the same skills that empower citizens in free and open societies. National Geographic cares about these societies at least as much, if not more, than we care about the fate of Big Cats.

To that end, we will help equip, empower, and inspire the members of our Society with tools, training, and community support. We’ll serve as an international basecamp for those who want to Join The [Democratic] Adventure.

Our ultimate goal: To make The Democracy Story (and the National Geographic Society) a success for generations to come.

In other words: Take these ideas, which John shared during a recent and barely publicized event in Washington, DC…


… and make them the cornerstone of everything we do at the National Geographic Society.

(Based on the video teaser for National Geographic’s Great Migrations.)


Your thoughts, John?

John Fahey National Geographic

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)

“Let your project go”

“Working against the very cause of freedom
is something that you need to approach very delicately….”

The Society’s project
once meant championing the very cause of freedom:


Thomas Jefferson, Architect of Freedom

NGM, February 1976

NGM September 1987

NGM September 1987

But then we let The Project go:

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

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


John Fahey National Geographic


Related posts:
The Elephant in The Room
Befriending Thugs Who Love The Planet
Adventures In Global Media
Thugs, Oppression, Global Media & 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)

Free speech is dying in China… but, hey, isn’t that a lovely photo of a cloud?

{ Read the whole thing here. }

For those media executives who are willing to play ball,
a different dream lives on: 

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

Front page of ngmchina.com.cn (People’s Republic of China), September 14, 2012


Political Prisoners in the People’s Republic of China (2010)

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