My purpose has long been to help people make sense of the momentous environmental and social changes under way on this “pale blue dot”
called Earth, the forces behind those changes, and what policies and practices can foster human progress while limiting regrets.
My purpose will not change, but early next month I enter a new season, moving to a new platform and an old approach.
I’ve signed on as a senior reporter at ProPublica with a focus on how countries and companies
are, and are not, responding to climate change.
The innovative nonprofit newsroom announced the position in early August, but the job feels profoundly
timely now, given the approaching presidency of Donald J. Trump (understatement alert).
I’ll start on Dec. 5. This nine-year, 2,799-post-and-counting journey on Dot Earth will come to an end, as will my teaching at Pace University. I’ll miss both, and will discuss those changes
in a string of posts between now and December.
But this is a time for focus and depth.
It’s an incredible opportunity. What’s not to like about an organization that is both centered on the most important form of journalism — investigative reports with “moral force”
— and agile enough to be hiring an “engagement reporter” and to build innovative online tools like
Electionland, which used citizen reports to home in on potential problems with ballot access?
In today’s communication climate, I can’t imagine a better home and job as I head into my fourth decade writing on humanity’s increasingly two-way relationship with the climate system.
There was undoubtedly enormous competition for this slot, and I’m thrilled the editors embraced my conception of the core challenge on this beat.
Clearly, my first months will center on what a Trump administration might do at the national and international scale to climate and energy policies and relevant funding.
Given that climate change is fairly far down President-elect Trump’s to-do list (and given that many of
his plans will be harder to carry out than to pledge), that may leave him some room to settle in with an agenda
a bit more reflective of statements he’s made about climate and clean energy than those he’s made in inflammatory Twitter bites and speeches. For instance, I’d give higher odds to
Jeffrey Holmstead getting the top job at the Environmental Protection Agency than Myron Ebell.
Time will tell.
The wider investigative goal I proposed to ProPublica is to expose “reality gaps” in descriptions of clean-energy
technologies and policies (not to mention policies of those saying the fossil-fuel status quo is just fine) and point to under-addressed opportunities to cut vulnerability to climate-related hazards right now.
If society’s goal is to build a sustainable relationship with the climate system — meaning a way of living that limits our impact on the climate and its impacts on our systems — we
have a very long way to go. I’ll be particularly focused on what is, and isn’t, being done now to boost prospects for the two billion or so energy-starved, climate-vulnerable people who are also
I plan to remain associated with Pace University in an advisory capacity once I leave the faculty at the end of this semester. The Dyson College Institute for Sustainability and the Environment is fast emerging as a leading hub for blending learning, doing and communicating.
That same template established in the documentary course through which I worked with Prof. Maria Luskay and energetic student teams to create six films that capture the reality that any environmental solution will fail if it does not integrate the economic needs and norms of local communities.
Their next stop is the side of Florida that most visitors — and many Floridians — never see (at
least until it intrudes, sometimes with tragic results).
I wish I could go, but I have my work cut out for me in my new position.
Once at ProPublica, I’ll return to a reporting model that will require sustained focus and a lot of time, limiting my flow of online commentary.
I’ll occasionally post on Medium.com/@revkin, as with the recent repost of a 2005 lecture that is more relevant than ever: “Can There Be Passion and Detachment in Environmental Journalism?”
For now, I encourage you to follow me on Twitter (@revkin) and/or Facebook, where my personal account has somehow become
my largest public interface — and once in awhile a source of a neat reader-prompted story.
Tips always welcome.
Closing thought| I’ll always relish the contributions I was able to make for The Times, from the chaos of climate diplomacy the last time treaty negotiations were under way while the American presidency was in transition to a science camp on the North Pole sea ice to the Vatican.
But The Times is building an exciting new architecture for its climate change coverage across news and commentary, which makes
it easier to say farewell. I wish my friends and longtime colleagues the best.
Foonote | * An asterisk indicates an added line.