Teen Vogue sugar-coats, simplifies climate solutions to mislead young readers

July 26, 2022

By Tim Worstall

Teen Vogue, sadly, fails in that most basic of its own ambitions – to educate the influencers of tomorrow. That is how the site describes itself and we share that aim, also think that the desire is noble. The thing is, to educate it is necessary to actually do so.

This is wrong:

While it has been challenging to get some older workers involved in the climate struggle, Dedmond said, younger workers are quicker to see the connections between intersecting crises they’re dealing with. “Young workers bring a refreshing analysis to note that we don’t have to trade off good jobs for the environment and we don’t have to trade off the environment for good jobs — we can very much work in concert.”

No. The harshest and yet also inescapable truth of life is that everything is a trade-off. We cannot both party and do our homework. Whatever resource we use to do this one thing here cannot then also be used to do this other thing over there – even our time. Economists call this “opportunity costs” and sure, there’s a lot they’ve gotten wrong over the years, but not this one thing. Everything is a trade-off.

With governments availing trillions of dollars for climate solutions worldwide, the delivery of visions like biodiversity-boosting offshore wind farms and cascades of rooftop solar panels, will create nearly 10 million jobs in the U.S. alone over the next decade, as the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst has estimated.

Those trillions of dollars cannot then be used to solve world hunger, just as an example, if they are being used to build wind farms. Similarly, the labor of those 10 million people cannot be used to provide child care, or free at the point of use health care, or community organization, if it is being used to produce cascades of solar panels, rooftop or not.

Further, if those are all to be “good jobs” with health care, high wages and so on, then that’s a greater expense for building those renewable systems. More societal resources will have to be devoted to that task and less to any of the others that we might be interested in.

Do note something very important here. It could be that good union jobs rolling out renewables is the best trade-off for society. We remain to be convinced of that, but it is a possibility. We are not arguing about the specific trade-off being presented here. We do insist that it is a trade-off, however.

Teen Vogue, as we’ve mentioned, markets itself as “educating the influencers of tomorrow”. That’s a noble ambition and one we share as it happens. Teen Vogue gains some 5 million visits a month as it follows that path.

But we do insist that education means teaching what is actually true. As in, well, educating the teenage readership as to what is this life actually like. Everything is a trade-off. The claim that something is not a trade-off is more than an error, it is misleading, it is disinformation. We have to actually choose – trade-off – among the different things that are possible. This is true of good jobs, unions and renewables just as it is of anything else. Teen Vogue would educate by – boringly, we admit – telling its future influencers this. By not they’re not educating.


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