Andrew Revkin - The Death of Science Writing, and the Future of Catastrophe

March 12, 2010

Host: Chris Mooney

We live in a science centered age—a time of private spaceflight and personalized medicine, amid path-breaking advances in biotechnology and nanotechnology. And we face science centered risks: climate and energy crises, biological and nuclear terror threats, mega-disasters and global pandemics.

So you would think science journalism would be booming—yet nothing could be further from the case. If you watch 5 hours of cable news today, expect to see just 1 minute devoted to science and technology. From 1989-2005, meanwhile, the number of major newspapers featuring weekly science sections shrank from 95 to 34.

Epitomizing the current decline is longtime New York Times science writer Andrew Revkin, who recently left the paper for a career in academia.

In this conversation with host Chris Mooney, Revkin discusses the uncertain future of his field, the perils of the science blogosphere, his battles with climate blogger Joe Romm, and what it’s like (no joke) to have Rush Limbaugh suggest that you kill yourself. Moving on to the topics he’s covered for over a decade, Revkin also addresses the problem of population growth, the long-range risks that our minds just aren’t trained to think about, and the likely worsening of earthquake and other catastrophes as more people pack into vulnerable places.

Andrew Revkin was the science and environment reporter for the New York Times from 1995 through 2009. During the 2000s, he broke numerous front page stories about how the Bush administration was suppressing science, and launched the highly popular blog Dot Earth. But last year, Revkin announced he was leaving the Times. He accepted a post as a senior fellow of environmental understanding at Pace University in White Plains, New York, where he will focus on teaching and two new book projects—complementing existing works like The North Pole Was Here, a book about the vanishing Arctic aimed at middle and high schoolers. In his new life, Andy will also have much more time to play with what he dubs his “rustic-rootsy” band, Uncle Wade.

Books Mentioned in This Episode:


Links Mentioned in This Episode:

Dot Earth
The Daily Planet: Why the Media Stumble Over the Environment