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Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Media Bashing At Green Week

There were a range of views at the opening day of the European Commission's annual Green Week around the question 'Can the media and society change climate attitudes?' but a lot of criticism was levelled at the media.  Much of this seemed to be pure media bashing - on the one hand participants claimed information overload, on the other hand the media wasn't doing enough to convince people about climate change.  Speakers claimed that the media would always represent the climate change doubters' viewpoint as well which is basically like saying we don't want balanced reporting or a free press.

The European Commission said very candidly that as an institution it was "not built for" communicating but that they had come a long way.  "We're trying to transform a dinosaur into something more modern" said the Commission representative. 

Climate change is a real issue and yet the information is out there and we're not acting on it, said filmmaker Franny Armstrong whose film The Age Of Stupid projects forward to a gloomy future.  The media is failing, she said "not from a lack of information but from a lack of imagination".  Like everyone else, Armstrong said, the media doesn't want climate change to be true.

Germany's tabloid paper, the Bild Zeitung explained how it had joined forces with Greenpeace and other NGOs to raise awareness through shocking headlines like 'Unser Planet Stirbt' or 'Our Planet Is Dying' and front page spreads on the need to act on climate and to behave differently.  And the blogosphere was promoted as the place for aggressive and independent environmental journalism.

17-year old Nurul, a social media filmmaker from Indonesia asked why Europe wasn't doing anything to combat climate change when they are already feeling the impacts in her country.  She was an impressive speaker but neither the moderators nor the speakers mentioned that Indonesia is the world's third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, due to deforestation, forest fires and the degradation of peatlands, according to a 2007 World Bank report. 

Clearly we must all act and the media has a role to play, not just in educating the public but in changing the perception of environmental issues.  Already environmental awareness is becoming more mainstream but environmental gestures still remain largely as tokenism. 

The session concluded with the idea that for the media to keep running with the climate story, it needs to find ways to constantly repackage the information.  But a positive message is needed.  We have always promoted the idea that sustainability should be presented as a positive, as a benefit for society.  In today's economic climate, we feel it's a win-win situation.  We need to keep getting the message out but move away from the doom and gloom disaster rhetoric and towards the positive.

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