Salon just put up an intriguing long yarn from writer Zac Unger. It reads like the transcript of an engrossing seminar in a journalism school on the confusing ground that reporters must cross while trying to learn whom to trust as a source.
Good on Salon for giving it more visibility. The piece originally ran elsewhere, where we'd have missed it, so to give due, primary credit …
- Pacific Standard (erstwhile Miller-McCune) : The Fuzzy Face of Climate Change ;
The Pacific Standard hed with its clear suggestion of ambiguity is better than Salon's "The Polar Bear Just Might Outlive Us All." For one thing, whole species do rather commonly outlive individual members of other species. Second, the chance that the white bear will outlast humanity seems awful slim. So it makes no sense. Also, the idea that polar bears not only may not go extinct in the next century or so but may, if we don't go shoot them all, have a good chance for millenniums more is a proper inference from this story but it is hardly the main point.
The piece is long and a bit of a ramble. It could have used an editor to tighten and take out some of the Zac's-angst centrism wth its dash of jaded wise-guy. Not too much, but the conversationally discursive style seems to me to go off course a few times. But as a portrait of an earnest journalist trying to get well inside a story and to learn who are the true experts and who are not it is a must-read. In short, the sources who he expected to find as the good guys were prickly isolationists who distrust the press immensely, and the ones who surprised him with their hunches and data were the friendliest and appeared to be the most data-driven. Thus fuzzy and elusive reality threatened to undermine the crystalline rationale behind Unger's decision to uproot his family while pursuing a definitive Great Polar Bear Book. Undermine, but not quite cause to founder. This article is extracted from the book. It is to be published in Feburary.
This piece and presumably the upcoming book may be embraced by denialists as a counter to what they see as grotesque exaggeration of climate change's impacts. That'd be a mistake. Unger seems happy with a bleak-enough middle ground – that the big bears' range may shrink drastically. But that doesn't mean zero. One gathers from this article that Unger suspects that in some places – such as around Greenland, Canada's Arctic archipelago, and Hudson Bay – they could remain fat for a very long time. Even if it is to be so, a Siberia and North Slope without polar bears is a turn for the worse.