Vanity Fair should probably get the award for best overall Green Issue for its second annual go at it. As the cover — a photomontage of actor-environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio and Knut, a three-month-old polar bear born in the Berlin zoo — suggests, the content is a mix of the deeply reported, long-form narrative and celebrity glorification for which VF editor Graydon Carter is known. But unlike other magazines, VF resisted the pull toward unbridled optimism and delivered a more realistic, though less heartening review of environmental accomplishments. There is a scathing condemnation of Rush Limbaugh by James Wolcott, who calls him “a grand obstruction, a massive blockage endowed with the gift of gab,” who has obfuscated climate science. There are two riveting narratives, one on the degradation of the Amazon rainforest, another on the next generation of low-emission hot rods, and a profile of “oil-industry mouthpiece” and oft-quoted media source Myron Ebell. Finally, there is a twenty-eight-page photo spread of “Global Citizens,” from Hollywood stars to student youth leaders; it’s comprehensive and, as expected, the photography is fantastic.
The really trendy stuff is in Elle’s Green Issue, which is the only one of the genre where the color of Kermit does not actually grace the cover, except, of course, in Mandy Moore’s seductive eyes. For shoppers, this is definitely the place to go; nowhere will you find more information on eco-friendly clothing, home, beauty care and hygiene products. The surprising exception to consumer-oriented fluff is a feature questioning undeclared Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich’s apparent reconciliation with the green ideology. The conservative mastermind of the GOP takeover of Congress in the 1990s is now publishing an “environmental treatise” called Contract With the Earth, which features a forward by famed conservation biologist E.O. Wilson. Fortunately, Bill Lambrecht’s skeptical exposé does not give Newt a free pass on what is thus far mostly lip service, concluding that Newt’s greenness is still up in the air.
But the greenness of the press, at least a significant part of it, is no longer in doubt. The nearly overwhelming volume of environmental coverage in April alone is a welcome development. But we hope this is not just modish behavior on the part of the media. An avalanche of Green Issues can seem a little like bandwagon-jumping at times, especially when there is a lot of overlap in the coverage and an increasing amount of the ink is going toward consumer news, but patience on the part of readers will pay off. From Fortune to Elle, the offerings are littered with emeralds worth digging up.