COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., June 18, 2013 /PRNewswire/ – Journalists are operating under the magnifying glass of a new “media watchdog” on the lookout for bias about growth. Most reporting and commentary in the news media about economic growth and population growth is founded on a cultural myth that endless expansion is both possible and desirable, according to the non-profit that recently launched Growth Bias Busted (www.growthbiasbusted.org).
Citizen-Powered Media created the website to encourage accurate reporting and commentary on issues of growth in population, economies and consumption. Growth Bias Busted spotlights examples of pro-growth bias on its “Wall of Shame,” and celebrates balanced and accurate reporting on its “Wall of Fame.”
“Today when a news story is published about population growth, the headline and story frequently assume population growth is good news. It’s considered a positive indicator for cities, states and nations,” according to Dave Gardner, president of Citizen-Powered Media and director of the documentary GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth. Associate Producer Lynsey Jones adds, “We find the same bias in reporting on GDP growth, housing starts, factory production and retail sales. The fastest growing cities and economies are portrayed as winners in a competition that — when examined closely — is a race to the bottom.”
“We just had a century of unprecedented economic and population growth,” explains Gardner. “During this time we came to think growth is wonderful, and for a time it was. But now we have filled the world with 7 billion ‘consumers’. Earth no longer has excess capacity to support future growth.”
Former World Bank senior economist Herman Daly warns economic growth has become “uneconomic.” The marginal costs exceed the benefits. Scientists doing ecological footprint analysis at the Global Footprint Network report current levels of population and consumption are 50 percent higher than Earth can sustain over the long run. This is causing record levels of species extinction, declining river and aquifer levels, fisheries decline, climate disruption, diminishing soil fertility and many other crises.
“We are in overshoot,” summarizes Gardner. Most journalists, however, haven’t caught up with this basic fact. “They grew up in a culture that thinks bigger is better and we can grow forever.” The warnings of scientists about growth’s negative impacts are seldom mentioned in reporting that extensively quotes economists, elected officials, CEOs and other non-scientists with a vested interest in seeing market and consumption growth. As a result, negative or mixed news is presented as strictly positive. “Reporters and editors need to understand a growing number of experts and members of the public do not view more people, more houses, or more factory production as a sign of success.”
Lynsey Jones notes, “We are telling ourselves fairy tales.” Reporting and commentary that ignore the limits imposed by a finite planet while presenting GDP and population growth as valid metrics for civic, national and societal success reinforce an antiquated value system that keeps humankind on a destructive path. More accurate reporting will encourage society to explore more sustainable goals.
“We hope eventually reporters and commentators will tire of seeing their names on our Wall of Shame,” explains Gardner. “We hope to inspire them to examine their unexamined assumptions about the universal goodness of growth, and to do more balanced reporting as a result.”
Dave Gardner is available for interviews.
Dave Gardner, Citizen-Powered Media
Carney & Associates