A few very personal words brought the 2010 Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum to a close on Wednesday. The State Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, George Schuette, and Deutsche Welle's Director of Television, Christoph Lanz, closed the conference with a message from their children: that we must continue saving electricity and water. They were simple words that served to summarize the essence of the media gathering, which brought journalists, scientists and non-governmental organizations together for three days of intense discussion about the future of the world's environment.
Professionalism from journalists is crucial
Over three days, nearly 1,500 participants from 95 countries came together to discuss some of the key challenges – and possibilities – presented by climate change and the role of the media. The common thread throughout the workshops was the demand for more professionalism from journalists.
Journalists need to bring high professional standards into play in order to tackle the complex issue of climate change, Christoph Lanz said. “We must provide trustworthy and reliable information. We must be in a position to evaluate different sources in a flood of information,” he said. The media should, in a simple, reliable way, inform the public about the problems of climate change, but also highlight solutions – “and by doing that, put people and their everyday lives right at the center”, Lanz said.
Threats need highlighting, but so do solutions
US-based scientist Naomi Oreskes pointed out the gap between what scientists say about climate change, and the scenarios depicted in the media. According to Oreskes, that gap is the result of ignorance on the part of the journalists. It also helps to explain why climate skeptics enjoy so much prominence, though the threat of climate change is no longer disputed in the broader scientific community.
In fact, an opinion poll of 13,000 people in 18 countries from all continents, commissioned by the Deutsche Welle and released during the conference, found that the vast majority of those surveyed are concerned about climate change. What's more, the poll found people are ready to adjust their behavior accordingly: Many said they would be willing to pay higher prices for goods produced in an environmentally friendly way.
That willingness is one that was shared by many participants at the Bonn conference. Confronting audiences with horror scenarios alone is not enough. Journalists must also highlight solutions. Bertrand Piccard, for one, is convinced that the technical possibilities necessary to bring an end to the fossil fuel age are already available. Piccard, a Swiss adventurer, spoke at the opening of the Forum about his plan to fly non-stop around the world in a solar-powered airplane. He hopes his eco-friendly circumnavigation sets an example to others about the possibilities offered by renewable energy.
The winner of a photo competition aimed at illustrating climate change was also announced as the Global Media Forum wrapped up on June 23. Entrants from around the world had been invited to document the visible effects of climate change in their own environment. The winning photo, from Sudipto Das in India, shows children bathing in a river – an idyllic scene only at first glance. The children are seen jumping into the water from the roof of a flooded temple.
It would be difficult to find a more dramatic example with which to underline the appeal for urgent action from Mannava Sivakumar, Director of the Department for Climate Forecasting at the World Meteorological Organization. Hours before the end of the conference, Sivakumar announced, to enthusiastic applause, that “we must all learn to live with less – so that others can continue living."
The next Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum in May 2011 will focus on the theme of "Human Rights in a Globalized World: Challenges for the Media".
Author: Matthias von Hein (skt)
Editor: Kristin Zeier