Saturday, September 02, 2006

Proliferation of Green Blogs - at what cost?

A recent article by Richard Ladle poses an interesting question and argues that the large and increasing number of environmental related blogs are making it harder to sort fact from fiction.

Of course there is the irony of writing about this on a 1 week old blog.

Blagging in the blogosphere

VIEWPOINT Richard Ladle
"Blogs are revolutionising the way millions of people around the world keep in touch with environmental issues, but at what cost? Richard Ladle, in this week's Green Room, says the growing popularity of web-based journals is making it harder to sort fact from fiction."
Later on Richard Ladle goes on to say:
"Scientific information and "expert" opinions are literally just a mouse-click away. However, unlike the traditional news media, the internet has no gatekeepers, no reviewers, and no authority to help you distinguish good science from the bad, environmental fact from environmental fiction."
When talking more specifically about environmental issues he
"Misrepresentation of environmental science on the internet is widespread and weblogs are by no means a special case. From deforestation rates in the Amazon to climate change statistics, nothing is necessarily how it appears."
"Furthermore, unlike most traditional forms of media that have gatekeepers, people whose job it is validate facts, check copy, exert some sort of quality control; the defining characteristic of the blogosphere is its lack of regulation. "
As academics we are acutely aware of the problems with broad statements on the environment. Matt Cole for example wrote a broadly critical review piece in 2003 for the Economic Journal on the Bjorn Lomborg book.
Richard Ladle then goes on to say:
"Poor reporting of environmental science may also have a disproportionate effect on children who are increasingly turning the internet as their preferred source of information and who are least able to judge thevalidity of claims or the legitimacy of one blog over another. "
"So how should we be responding to the challenges andopportunities presented by the blogosphere?"
"One way to deal with misrepresentation in blogs is to increase the weight of informed opinions in the blogosphere. An influx of scientifically informed opinion and accurate information would also help combat and correct misrepresentations in the traditional news media and draw publicattention to important new research findings."
The aim of this blog is to hopefully add to those blogs that are based on firm scientific foundations with, in theory, informed opinions.
As Ladle himself writes - readers of "environmental blogs" should:
  • Check the data - strong scientific arguments are based on information from recognised sources that is available for public scrutiny, while weak or spurious arguments are often backed up with data from secondary sources or often no data at all.
  • Take note of the language - arguments couched in hyperbolic language may be masking a lack of understanding or sound information.
The majority of the blogs I have read are excellent and well informed (links on the sidebar). Hopefully this will continue.

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