On Thursday’s "Good Morning America," the ABC program touted a liberal New Yorker who is so concerned about the environment that he refuses to use toilet paper. GMA devoted eight and a half minutes of the May 10 show to promoting the cause of Colin Beavan, a man who, in addition to his bathroom stance, refuses to buy anything in packaging, won’t use transportation, even elevators, and insists that all his food be grown within 250 miles.
According to liberal weatherman Sam Champion, who admiringly recounted Mr. Beavan’s story, "The rules may seem a little extreme." A little? Co-anchor Diane Sawyer talked to the environmentalist in a follow-up segment and gushed over Beavan’s bizarre, minimalist lifestyle:
Colin Beavan: "...A lot of the things you can do for the planet are also good for you."
Sawyer: "And so good for you. Yeah. What you were saying about the way it concentrates your mind to be free of concern about a lot of the things in your life. It really makes sense to me."
No word on whether Sawyer will be opting to forgo toilet paper.
During the introduction, the GMA host appeared to be in awe of the man who calls himself "No Impact Man."
Diane Sawyer: "Well, I always loved the idea that if you took the planet Earth and divided the land by everybody on it, each of us would have four acres, four acres of our own. We’re custodians of them. So what do we want to do with ours? Would you be like the couple we're about to meet who used to have our styrofoam cups, our 18,000 plastic bags in a lifetime, decided to change all that, to do something about it. In fact, they did it in such a radical way, we read about it in the New York Times and our mouths dropped open. And Sam Champion is going to tell you their story."
By way of contrast, take a look at how Mr. Beavan describes himself on his website:
"A guilty liberal finally snaps, swears off plastic, goes organic, becomes a bicycle nut, turns off his power, composts his poop and, while living in New York City, generally turns into a tree-hugging lunatic who tries to save the polar bears and the rest of the planet from environmental catastrophe while dragging his baby daughter and Prada-wearing, Four Seasons-loving wife along for the ride."
Somehow, the word "liberal" didn’t appear in the GMA segments. If this man isn’t a left-winger, who is?
Weatherman Champion toured the apartment of the Beavan family and recounted how they deprive themselves of modern amenities:
Sam Champion: "From the outside, mornings at the Beavan household look pretty ordinary. Breakfast, brushing their teeth and getting 2-year-old Isabella ready for daycare. But if you look a little closer, there’s no morning paper, no morning television, no coffee. That's right, no coffee. Coffee isn’t grown locally, so it's off limits. Colin Beavan is leading his family through a year long experiment seeing if they can live their lives without creating any waste, and therefore having no negative impact on the environment."
Mr. Champion, who once hosted a segment that wondered if global warming will kill billions, described the bizarre endeavor as a "serious experiment":
Champion: "This is a serious experiment for a family. I mean, to put your, to put your family into this."
Beavan: "The fact is that everything we have done has actually helped us as a family."
Champion: "The rules may seem a little extreme. Nothing new, nothing in any packaging. No food that isn't grown or made within 250 miles, and no transportation, even public transportation, even elevators. And, oh yeah, no toilet paper."
In a subsequent piece, Diane Sawyer did ask Beavan if his friends think he’s insane, but mostly stuck to highlighting how admirable his actions were. She began by requesting to see the solitary napkin that the New Yorker uses to...clean himself:
Sawyer: "And joining us now is the writer, and self proclaimed ‘No Impact Man’ Colin Beavan. He’s got that book coming out next year. The first time I met you, you showed up, had your own cup, because you always had your own cup to get refills of anything that people have. You have your own sort of napkin you carry around? Where is it?"
Colin Beavan: "I carry a cloth so that we don't have to use paper towels. You know, when we go to the restroom, I can dry my hands or, you know, various– Napkins in restaurants."
After encouraging Mr. Beavan to talk about how the experiment "has been great for your life," Sawyer broached the delicate issue of what the family uses instead of toilet paper. Apparently, this wasn’t an issue for morning television:
Sawyer: "Now, I know everybody wants to know what you do instead of toilet paper. I'm not going to tell them. I’m going to let them go online and search this out for themselves. Let me just say it’s the Bedouin solution. If you don’t know what that is, you’re on your own out there."
Finally, in a truly odd moment, the ABC anchor complimented the liberal environmentalist and marveled over how Beavan and his family will soon be going without electricity. (And, no. At no point did Sawyer seem to grasp the irony of what an electricity-free lifestyle might do to GMA’s ratings.):
Sawyer: "And so good for you. Yeah. What you were saying about the way it concentrates your mind to be free of concern about a lot of the things in your life. It really makes sense to me. But, you're now, what, about five and a half months in. Next step is to get rid of electricity, and live by daylight alone? In New York City?"
Beavan: "Saturday there’s a switch in my apartments which is the circuit breaker for the whole apartment. And we're having a little party for our friends and we’re going to click the switch off. So, yeah, so, as far as lights are concerned, we may have one or two solar powered lights for getting around a little bit in the night, but mostly by daylight."
The experiment is to last a year. According to that timetable, the Beavan family, which includes a two-year-old daughter, will be without electricity in December, in New York City. Some might find that alarming, but not Diane Sawyer. She closed by promising that GMA would check in with Beavan throughout the year. The ABC host touted his upcoming book and also noted that the program would be on the look out for any back-sliding:
Sawyer: "Cannot wait for the book to come out as well. And to see what you learned at the end of this and if you go back. If you go back, we’ll be watching."
Despite the warning, don’t expect Diane Sawyer to begin forgoing electricity or toilet paper.
For more information on Mr. Beavan, the Business and Media Institute covered the New York Times' reporting on his year-long project.