Spin Cycle

Owls versus loggers. Environmental regulations versus
manufacturing jobs. The war between environmentalists and industry
tycoons seems to be never ending, and with the presidential
election less than a year away, we can only expect the fighting to
intensify. Certainly the manufacturing sector is readying itself
for some cutthroat rhetorical struggles. In fact, industry bigwigs
recently prepared their anti-environmentalism strategy at a
conference hosted by the National Association of Manufacturers
entitled ‘Environmental Issues 2004: How to Get Results in an
Election Year,’ reports Amanda Griscom of Grist
magazine.

‘In general terms, we are hoping to provide our members with an
education about how environmental stories are created and reported,
and how the creation has an effect on the political process in an
election year,’ NAM spokesperson Darren McKinney is quoted as
saying. But it’s clear that the conference’s agenda wasn’t that
na?ve. Take, for example, Frank Maisano from Electric Reliability
Coordinating Council, who spoke on a panel entitled ‘Crafting
Environmental Messages,’ laying out three corporate strategies for
fighting what McKinney calls the ‘Sierra-Club, sky-is-falling
crowd.’ He suggested that the best way to fight pro-environmental
stories is to: simplify the issues, ‘give some easy analogies,’
explain that industry goals will have economic benefits like
creating jobs, and ‘explain that [they] will actually improve the
environment.’

New EPA administrator Mike Leavitt seems to have fallen for this
type of corporate storytelling: he was one of the keynote speakers
at the conference. And to make matters worse, the conference
follows on the heels of a report — ‘Manufacturing in America’ —
released by the Commerce Department, which urges the rollback of
environmental regulations.

Some environmentalists have been diligently trying to counter
industry by forming the Carbon Coalition, a group of 500 activists
urging Democratic candidates to make environmental policy a
priority. However, even if environmental issues are pushed to the
foreground of the political debate, there will still be plenty of
opportunity for anti-enviro ‘experts’ to spin them in the media, as
they try to sell us their simple black-and-white,
nature-versus-money story.
Erica Wetter

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Spin
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