Water Shortages & Journalistic Hawthorne Effects

There is something about the following tacit admission in a story about possible Andes water shortages that bugged me:

Informed of the [possible water supply] threat, Quispe, a 37-year-old Aymara Indian, shows alarm on her weathered face. “Where are we going to get water? Without water how can we live?”

So, to summarize: A Western journalist goes to a Bolivian village and confronts an Indian, likely through a translator, tells them a hypothetical beyond their ken — not to mention dire and world-changing — and then asked for their reaction. Introducing terrifying hypotheticals to people uniquely ill-equipped to cope with them, is a cheap shot, not to mention demonstrating the Hawthorne effect in journalism.


  1. Sanjong Thapa says:

    ‘ “I believe it appropriate to have an overstatement of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate to opening up the audience to listen,” Gore told the environmentalist magazine Grist in 2006.
    In the early days of the warming scare, when Gore was just a Tennessee senator who had mere presidential, not world-saving, aspirations on his mind, Stanford University environmentalist Stephen Schneider told Discover magazine in 1989 that “we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public’s imagination.”
    “That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.”
    Guilty as well is James Hansen, the climate change godfather, who said in 2003 that “emphasis on extreme scenarios may have been appropriate at one time, when the public and decision makers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue.”
    We’re sure he no longer believes they are appropriate because he knows they aren’t needed. He and others have effectively bamboozled the world into believing that climate disaster is imminent. ‘

  2. Paul,
    In calling people to action, there will always be those who exaggerate and spread fear to create propaganda for their agenda (or egos). These is true of any endeavor be it war, policy, or sales and marketing. It is unfortunate to see this type of nonsense when the subject at hand is something one feels strongly about.
    It does seem that global warming has gone from a fable to an imminent threat overnight. The truth obviously lies somewhere between these two extremes.
    Despite the hype, there are still billions of dollars needed globally every year to simply maintain and repair the world’s current water systems. Additionally, we must consider the billion or so people who do not currently have sufficient water available to them. Both the developed and developing world will have significant needs in water and sanitation over the coming decades.
    I know you have researched water and I have followed your posts on PHO which I also own. Lately, I have put together some of the water research and resources I have used and put together a post for my blog:
    I also do a comparison of PHO, PIO, CGW and FIW
    Check it out if you would like.
    Happy investing.
    Long PHO