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A set of negative beliefs about The State of The World , characterised by statistician Bjørn Lomborg in his book The Skeptical Environmentalist as superstitious and exaggerated. The Litany is the dominant paradigm of our ever deteriorating environment.

Bjørn Lomborg's book is mostly devoted to a direct repudiation of the Litany (i.e. his statistical analysis showing the world is getting better, not worse), but also includes examples of the Litany in action and a discussion of how and why it is that there is an incredibly common view that the world is deteriorating.

Lomborg's analysis concludes that at many stages of the process that creates environmental news there are prejudicial and distorting processes that create a view of the world that is worse than reality. Lomborg describes how at each stage, direct and indirect decisions are made which will effectively exagerrate the appearance of problems the world is suffering.

Research is the process of gathering scientific evidence, and when verified, it becomes part of the bedrock of human knowledge. But Lomborg argues that the process of gathering information will help create the impression of a deteriorating environment, because the bulk of research will take place on issues which are seen as problems. For instance, we would expect more research into a polluted river in Eastern Europe than an untouched river in the inner Amazon. Also, when forecasting into the future, it will be quite common for these studies to foreshadow potential catastrophes.

We must expect that efficient reseacrh will provide information about many potential future problems. But the fact that we hear so many stories should not necessarily be taken as an indication that the end is nigh.
— Lomborg, 'The Skeptical Environmentalist', 1998, p.37

Once research foreshadows that a potential environmental hazard exists, and before substantial research even has a chance to confirm or deny the threat, various organisations will publicise that the environment is in danger. Lomborg points out that these organisations often have very strong reasons to distort the truth and to present a lop-sided view. Scientific Institutions set up to investigate environmental problems are reliant on an ongoing public perception of danger in order to keep their funding. For this reason, these institutes rarely challenge the dominant paradigm that pervades their field of research and this is apotential source of distorted information. More importantly for Lomborg are the environmental organisations, whom he roundly criticises for exaggeration, distortion and lying. Lomborg contends that they have an obvious motivation for making the world seem worse than it is, because they have political goals that will only be addressed once the population is convinced the world faces grave environmental dangers.

... the environmental organisations have a clear interest in telling us that the environment is in a bad state, and that we need to act now. And the worse they can make this state appear, the easier it is for them to convince us we need to spend more money on the environment rather than on hospitals, kindergartens etc.
—Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, 1998, p.38

The final stage of the Litany is the filter through which we perceive the wider world: the media. Lomborg argues that the structure of news media will inevitably lead it to create a negative view of the world. First of all, the media will always centre on drama and conflict, and this will usually be negative. Which will lead the news, the thousands of oil tankers that transport oil internationally without incident, or the one that crashes into the coast?

... a story has to be new and exciting. A story about a new problem or conflict is potentially far more interesting than describing an already familiar, traditional problem.
—Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, 1998, p.41

All this creates a system that is more likely to discover and report potential environmental problems than it is to deliver a balanced report on the state of the world.

Our demand for interesting and sensational news means that our picture of the world becomes distorted and negative. Coupled with the finely tuned PR units of the environmental organisations and problem-oriented research, this can provide serious bias towards a negative appraisal of the state of the world.
—Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist, 1998, p.41

Despite the controversy surrounding the science and statistical approach of Lomborg (he has polarised the environmental science community and has had findings of scientific dishonesty upheld against him, only to succesfully challenge them and get them thrown out), his theory on the Litany has yet to be substantially challenged. It remains a strong theory on the process by which our perception of the world is distorted.

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