Dave Ostergren is the director of the Master’s in Environmental Education program at Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center of Goshen College. He also teaches policy courses. When not working, he’s often heading for the nearest wilderness. 

If you value democracy, subscribe to a newspaper. If you want to protect the earth, subscribe to a major newspaper. If you want our government to protect those who are most vulnerable, subscribe. Reliable newspapers are the first defense of truth because they uncover deception and shine a light on the lies. The familiar saying, “The first casualty in war is the truth” is a variant on Samuel Johnson’s warning that leaders looking for support will bend the facts. We are engaged in just such a struggle and we need large newspapers as a source of truth.

In an era where we question our information, the most reliable sources of information are big, newspapers (besides peer reviewed academic journals of course, but I’ll tackle that next time). Freedom of the press provides the foundation for all of our freedoms—life, liberty, religion, the ability to assemble, to vote and so on. The Washington Post’s motto, “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” is truer today than ever. In large news sources, each story is vetted and supported. Yes, they get a few stories wrong, but think of the lies and corruption that would be hidden without the press. It shines a light on deception.

Why this is an environmental issue

So why subscribe to a newspaper for the environment? People act on information about events or actions that affect them personally. The large newspapers have a very expensive staff to support and are competing with cable news and social media like tweets and facebook. No matter how limited their income, newspapers will continue to cover what’s happening to big name politicians in Washington DC, big armed conflicts, famous people and natural disasters. In addition, they need enough income to send reporters to cover environmental issues so that voters can learn about how climate change is real and affecting their lives. Subscribing to a newspaper supports reporting that shows us climate change is real. Once we show the public, they will show their elected officials.

Climate change is so large, so powerful, and so imminent that no amount of denial can suppress the truth. Newspapers repeating and reporting the facts will prevail over veiled attempts to discredit the facts. The front page of the New York Times on March 21st, 2017, had a great graphic entitled, “How Americans Think about Climate Change in Six Maps.” A majority of Americans, in every single congressional district, think we should limit CO2 from coal-fired power plants. Wow. That means that the public is becoming aware of the truth, and the public is leaning toward action. And as it becomes normal for people to think that climate change is real and we should do something about it, the effect snowballs and finally a solid majority wants to take action on climate change. The public’s perception is a giant step toward prompting action in Congress. I know, because every time Congress has tried to reverse water and air protection, they get slapped in the next Congress.

But the public will not know about climate change if truth and democracy stay in the darkness. Subscribe to a shining light. Subscribe to the fourth branch of government in order that we will be free in speech, religion, health, life, voting, the press and our ability to live well in God’s Creation.