Letters to the Editor for the weekly print issue of December 10, 2012: Local news gives citizens the information to get involved and affect their immediate environment and the political decisions that shape it. Japan's problem is that is has no viable energy options other than nuclear power.
New York and Lexington, Mass.
The Nov. 12 cover story, "When no news is bad news," courageously points out that national newspapers don't foster community involvement in the same way that local and regional papers do. Consuming national and world news reinforces an image of ourselves as global citizens, but it can also make us forget that, in order to have a healthy democracy, we have to be local citizens first.
Staying informed is, of course, a basic democratic duty, but most Americans can take few direct actions on big issues like nuclear proliferation, climate change, and world hunger. Local news, in contrast, tells us about our immediate environment and the political decisions that shape it. It is the missing link in our democracy. It gives us ways to express our deeply felt democratic instincts other than only voting every two to four years.
In addition to the local news sites profiled in "A news future in feisty upstarts?," I'd like to suggest that more federal funding for the Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio, both of which have local news as part of their core mission, is another way to ensure that this crucial niche in the American news ecosystem is preserved.
The Nov. 12 Focus section features an article on "Japan's nuclear dilemma." But Japan does not have a nuclear dilemma; it faces an energy dilemma.
Solar is not a viable option in Japan because of the cloud cover. There is not enough land for large-scale wind power. Geothermal energy is limited. And the Japanese can't currently support their standard of living with expensive, imported natural gas.
The energy options are thus fixing the nuclear system or fostering global climate change by burning cheap coal. And Japan's geology does not give it the option of carbon dioxide sequestration (capture and long-term storage of CO2) to avoid massive greenhouse-gas releases if it uses fossil fuels.