Thursday, September 13, 2007

Disinformation not misinformation

I was misinformed about the term "misinformation," which originally I misused in my post of September 6th (I have just edited the term out). I meant to use "disinformation," which Wikipedia defines as "the deliberate dissemination of false information" -- clearly a topic of professional interest to librarians and other information professionals.

For examples of disinformation related to climate change and sustainability, see the web site The Heat is Online at

Sustainability and Preservation

The Kilgarlin Center for Preservation of the Cultural Record of the School of Information at the University of Texas at Austin, with The Getty Conservation Institute and The University of Texas at Austin Center for Sustainable Development, present From Gray Areas to Green Areas: Developing Sustainable Practices in Preservation Environments

The symposium will be held in Austin, Texas, November 1-3, 2007, on the University of Texas campus. Boasting an exciting line-up of speakers from the fields of conservation, architecture and public relations, the symposium will examine sustainable practices in cultural heritage preservation environments. There will be extensive time for discussion and brainstorming. A highly energetic "Slam Session" will conclude the program on Saturday.

For more information and to register for the symposium, please visit:

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Greening of the Campus

Greening of the Campus is the title of a series of conferences held at Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, over the last ten years that "allows people representing diverse areas in university communities to share information on environmental issues." The campus community, say the organizers, "can become a 'green' model for society as a whole by gathering and sharing this information." The seventh and most recent conference in the series took place this week and included presentations in the categories of Education, Research, Service and Operations.

Friday, September 7, 2007

In today's Wisconsin Week . . .

In today's Wisconsin Week is a story about a UW employee, Jim Winkle, who has made a switch to solar power for his Madison home.

The article quotes him as saying, "I've just become more and more aware over the years of the environmental impact of the way we live. . . . You think of [electricity] as this clean energy, this clean thing coming out of your wall outlet, but in fact it's the largest source of greenhouse gases."

Read more at Wisconsin Week

Thursday, September 6, 2007

"Balance" or disinformation?

According to today's Independent (UK daily newspaper), the BBC has decided to withdraw a major program on global warming titled "Planet Relief," (see the Independent at arguing that it is "not the BBC's job to lead opinion on the global warming issue."

This politicization into "opinion" of what is now overwhelming scientific evidence is very familiar to those of us who live in the United States. Calls for "balance" have resulted in a tiny minority of mostly non-scientists wielding influence in terms of air time or print space disproportionate to their numbers. Their claim to equal time with the scientific community results in a distortion of the truth that amounts to a disinformation campaign, which the BBC has unfortunately decided to join.

Librarians, like journalists, need to critically examine the notion of balance. Adherence to the Library Bill of Rights should not be a pretext for librarians to stand back from this crucial issue. Is it possible that one of the reasons that the library community has so far failed to take a concerted stand on global warming (just as in the past it unfortunately failed to take a major stand on civil rights) is because we are afraid of entering the political fray? If so, then the disinformation campaign has succeeded. The fact of global warming is not a matter of opinion.

Far from "leading opinion" the BBC program would have been reporting on what is already standard knowledge among scientists. Balance requires that information agencies like the mass media and libraries bring this vitally important information to the public as much as possible, not that they give equal time to a minority of nay-sayers who are the modern equivalent of flat-earthers.