Planet Gore

From Now On, Please Use ‘Real’ Photos of Drowning Polar Bears

Andrew Revkin writes at the Times’s Dot Earth blog:

The journal Science, which has long had an editorial stance pushing for action to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, published a piece of artwork last week that provided a nice bit of raw meat for foes of such steps.

A photograph of a polar bear standing balefully on a small ice floe was used to illustrate the letter from 255 members of the National Academy of Sciences decrying attacks on climate research and pressing for swift action to blunt global warming. As some professional opponents of climate action almost instantly noticed, the caption provided by the photo agency said it was a montage of several images — what the agency called “a Photoshop design.”

You could say, well, it’s just a piece of art, not even a factual error. Nothing about the glitch undercuts the content of the letter, and the authors weren’t even involved in illustrating their missive.

The problem, as Randy Olson has emphasized, is that imagery and appearance matter — particularly in an information landscape where passionate Web trollers questioning warming are so seamlessly tied in with professional partisans fighting restrictions on greenhouse gases through the amplifier of conservative talk radio and columnists.

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