Last week, I had the honor of co-interviewing climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, who was thrown under the bus by Newt Gingrich for the sin of offending the sensibilities of his voting base. Hayhoe was gracious, kind, intelligent, and thoughtful -- qualities that also describe the host of the show on which Hayhoe made her appearance.
I first heard of Betsy Rosenberg in the days following the controversy over an article I wrote about my change of heart on global warming. On April 27, 2011, I received a call from a radio producer informing me that Rosenberg had mentioned my article in an appearance the previous night on Hannity, and that she wanted me to appear on her online Progressive Radio Network show, The Green Front, if I was available later that afternoon. I readily agreed, and had a terrific ten-minute conversation with her about the evolution in my views.
I've been a guest on The Green Front several times since then, and I've always been impressed by Rosenberg's charisma and wisdom. I'm also dismayed by the fact that Rosenberg does not have a forum on cable television to cast a spotlight on the political science of climate change.
In light of a new study highlighting the role media coverage plays in raising awareness about the threat of anthropogenic climate change, it's quite curious that there seems to be a media blackout on this issue. Rosenberg has waged a virtuous fifteen-year battle against the mainstream media's insufficient attention to this matter, battling climate-change deniers such as Christopher Horner and Tucker Carlson along the way.
A few weeks after my first appearance on The Green Front, I interviewed Rosenberg about her effort to compel the Fourth Estate to place a stronger emphasis on environmental concerns. Her bid to launch a nationally syndicated commercial radio broadcast dealing with environmental issues was stonewalled by executives fearful of a political backlash, though they were impressed by her talent and experience covering the green beat. "[A] Clear Channel [executive] said there's no way I can put you on," said Rosenberg, who hosted TrashTalk Minutes on San Francisco-based KCBS Radio from 1997 to 2007 and Eco Talk on Air America from 2004 to 2007. "I asked, 'Why?" He said, 'Because there's no friendly environment there. It's all hostile.'...I said, 'Put me on in the belly of the beast. I'll take them on...If you like controversy, if you like provocative radio, you'll get it.' He said, 'No, I'm sorry, I just can't.'" CBS Radio and ABC Radio rebuffed her, telling her they were only interested in a TrashTalk Minutes-style segment. Another executive with Media Syndication Services, Inc. objected to the idea of an environmental show with any political commentary or call-to-action component, telling her that the people she would likely criticize "...[are] having a great party, and they're not going to let anybody get in the way. Get over it, it's not going to happen."
It's odd that these executives would not see the economic opportunity provided by a nationally syndicated show dealing with green issues. Environmentally friendly news consumers are the ultimate underserved market -- and environmentally unfriendly news consumers won't hesitate to give such a show free publicity, as they've already done to Rosenberg's self-funded, self-produced Green Front.
One hopes that progressive-leaning cable news outlets won't demonstrate the same timidity that commercial radio has shown. As Rosenberg has proven over the course of her career, environmental issues are connected to virtually every other sociopolitical issue in the country, if not the world -- from education to economics, from health to higher education. A green cable show would be a full-spectrum broadcast -- an opportunity to combat denialist dogma, a chance to spotlight successful clean-energy companies, a forum to call out corruption in Congress.
Rosenberg is an unsung heroine, a compelling presence whose interviews with Al Gore, Joe Romm, Van Jones, Bill McKibben, Annie Leonard, Roz Savage, Peter Sinclair, David Roberts and other notables in the environmental movement are treasures. She's a cerebral sharpshooter who never misses a target -- and an expert markswoman like her is needed to take down those who threaten the truth.
Any network that wants to stay current with reality and make viewers lean forward in anticipation would be wise to bring The Green Front to television. After all, if you're going to discuss global warming, don't you need someone cool?