Press Critical to Climate Change Debate
A call has been issued for regional journalists to assert themselves and claim their rightful places as they report on issues of climate change.
That call came from John Goedschalk, coordinator of a recent workshop on the environment in Suriname held under the auspices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Goedschalk told journalist climate change is not an accidental occurrence; it is the result of the industrialized nations treating our common atmosphere as a waste dumping ground for their greenhouse gasses for over 100 years.
"So in a very real sense, climate change is the result of not recognizing and treating the waste products of energy processes correctly. So in its core, some might recognize climate change as a result of failed waste management," he said. "As journalists in our vulnerable region, you carry a special responsibility. It means that when you write pieces that regard environmental matters, when you interview people, it means that you must ensure proper context… I refer here to the fact that we are among the countries with the least emissions…but we live in a region where poverty is still at unacceptable levels, where infrastructure is still painfully lacking, and where basic healthcare is not universally available. All of this against the background of increased climate vulnerability."
He added that as the region and the world fight against these odds to attain the level of economic development that is deserves, it is important to note that with increased industrialization come increased risks in the use of chemicals and pollutants that can damage our environment and endanger human health.
"As economic prosperity sets in, so does increased waste production per capita...so how do we balance this increasingly complex equation? As our region fights to advance along the sustainable development pathway that will eradicate poverty while improving our climate resiliency and maintaining clean landscapes. This implies a very different cost of doing business, and a different scale of investment then was required in a pre-climate change world," Goedschalk noted.
He warned that every country, and every people, taking into account their national circumstances and applying their unique strengths will have to find their own way.
"When I say we, I do not refer to any specific set of elected officials, or government employees, I refer to all of us… we, the citizens of this region. I am referring to all major groups, as they have been identified by the 1992 United Nations convention on sustainable development, namely: private sector, children and youth, famers, indigenous and tribal people, local government, NGO's, scientists and academia, women, labourers and unions," he said.
He said media practitioners have a role "as environmentally informed journalists" to provide these groups with as much information, context and critical insights that will enable them to contribute to the national, as well as their own respective sustainable development agendas.
"Sustainable development in the region will only come about by strengthening our major groups and you, you are a critical piece of the puzzle…You are in the unique position to inform, empower and from time to time, shake awake these groups, provide information, present contextual interpretation...I ask you to carry out your task with the required sense of integrity and respect," he stated.