The Coastal Post - May, 1998

What Are We Doing To The Sky?

Letter from Virginia Beach

By Jim Scanlon

Of course I flew to Ninth NASA Conference on the Atmospheric Effects of Aviation. How else would I get across the continent? There are so many people flying routinely, there are so many planes taking off and landing all the time, that it is hard to even think about estimates that current air travel will increase ten times over during the next ten years. It's cheap, safe, efficient way to move people, no roads, no rails-but what is going on outside those pressurized cabins?

Walking briskly along the beach along the Chesapeake Bay trying to do work up a sweat to relieve the jet lagged stupor I was in, I found it difficult to believe that for eight years NASA annually sponsored a major scientific conference on "The Atmospheric Effects of Aviation" and the only journalist to attend so far was me.

Yes, the Coastal Post, is the only newspaper to report on this major international scientific meeting on the global effects of an activity which is of major social and economic importance to the entire world! I am not kidding when I say I it is awesome!

It is very difficult to believe that no one from the New York Times or the Washington Post, etc., ever heard of this conference. The thought seems so improbable that I start to think right away that there is a conspiracy. But I don't think so. After all, the best secrets are the ones everyone knows, but doesn't talk about. It's just another manifestation of our old friend, "denial".

All the major print and broadcast media regularly cover the meetings of The American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union etc. They do not hesitate to report frightening news, that is news frightening to individuals but not to corporate or powerful political entities.

I have never seen any mention of this meeting in Science or Nature. I know that the British news magazine of science, New Scientist is aware of the meeting because I told the Editor and his best writer about it last year. They even sent me some money as a "tip fee" for several interesting papers I sent them. But they didn't do anything with the information. It's as if no one wants take a look at something that might have unpleasant implications.

At first I thought that NASA was trying to keep the meeting secret. I came across the announcement looking through a long list of meetings published in the newspaper of the American Geophysical Union. I was a little uncomfortable attending last year's meeting, partly because of my technical ignorance, and partly because I suspected, wrongly it turns out, that I might not be welcomed as an outsider.

A few of the people I talked to seemed pleased that someone from outside their field was showing interest in their work.

I now think NASA is doing a good job of doing science and bringing leading researchers together to exchange information in a quiet, dignified setting. My guess is that they want to be left alone to do their work. While they might appreciate support for their efforts, I also suspect they might not like being dragged into congressional hearing rooms chaired by Neanderthal brutes with religious and social views straight out of, say, the VIII or the IX Centuries!

When you read a newspaper article on a scientific subject in a major newspaper, you might not be aware that you are reading a news release written by a public relations person connected with the scientific journal or institution which published the work. A nice summary is provided with an "embargo" date. The newspaper can reprint the release, but not before the embargo date. It is really dishonest and fosters journalistic sloth.

This means that all I have to do is read the Times and watch TV news and note what is reported about science. Then, a month later when I get my copies of Science and Nature, I look for interesting articles that were not reported on. That way I get to know what is being denied and therefore what really is important!

I perfected this method over a sixteen year period attending virtually every Board meetings of the Marin Municipal Water District and then reading what the Gannett Independent Journal didn't print. It is an infallible method and I highly recommend it!

All NASA, or anyone else for that matter, has to do is to not spoon feed the corporate peon press. That's it! They have always been helpful and friendly to me, and haven't held back on anything. By being open about what they are doing, NASA lets irresponsible corporate media take responsibility for content, and , or course, corporate media, (like Gannif News) looks away.

I've grown fond of these NASA types and their foreign counterparts. They are our brightest and best. I don't know what, if anything can be done to produce the slightest change in the out of control technical juggernaut ravaging the globe, but if there is anything that can be done, it will come from them.

I just got the first day's agenda and stratospheric ozone depletion and non military supersonic aircraft are the main concern.

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