The Unite Nations Climate Conference, COP17, kicks off on Monday in Durban and we've dedicated almost this entire edition of the SACSIS weekly roundup to the event. We bring you a report and video footage from a SACSIS roundtable discussion, co-hosted with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung South Africa office, on how the South African media reports on climate change. I have penned a summary of the key debates at the event, attended by media representatives and activists from civil society. Do dip into our video booth for clips from the roundtable discussion featuring our keynote speakers and participants.
There is indeed a huge amount of excitement about COP17 being hosted in South Africa (our media have even compared it to the soccer world cup), but Glenn Ashton argues that South Africa is simply an inappropriate host, given that we are the biggest polluter on the African continent.
Finally, Michelle Pressend argues that South Africa's neoliberal water policies exacerbate the effects of climate change on the poor.
Fazila Farouk - SACSIS and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in South Africa co-hosted a roundtable discussion on "The Media and Climate Change." The purpose of the event was to interrogate the South African media's messaging in the run up to COP17.
Glenn Ashton - There is a hypocrisy inherent in having Africa's biggest and most recalcitrant polluter, South Africa, oversee the world's most important global climate change negotiations to date, COP17.
Michelle Pressend - Poor people's access to water is threatened by climate change and further undermined by South Africa's market-friendly water policies. Climate mitigation solutions on their own will not secure the right to adequate drinking water for all South Africans.
Boyle, editor of the Daily Dispatch newspaper said we need to make the story of climate change about "me," arguing further that from a media perspective, he would not want to take positions on climate change, but rather tell the story and let the positions emerge. He made these remarks at a roundtable co-hosted by SACSIS and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, which examined the media's messaging in the run up to COP17.
Sue Blaine, Environment and Development Editor at the Business Day, South Africa's premier business newspaper, argued that climate change as an issue has arrived at a time when fundamental global changes are taking place. The Western way of looking at things has been the dominant one for a long time, but that's changing, she argued, and climate change fits into this evolving discourse.
Prof. Herman Wasserman, Deputy Head of Rhodes University's School of Journalism and Media Studies argued that the South African media's coverage of climate change is not quite commensurate with the scale and impact of the crisis. He highlighted three weaknesses in the media's reporting on climate change: frequency, prominence and tone.
Saliem Fakir, head of the Living Planet Unit at the World Wildlife Fund and SACSIS columnist said his impression of the climate change debate is that its like talking about aliens and what would happen if aliens landed on earth. People are fascinated by the idea, but it remains a remote notion and the conversation tends to stay at that level. Media coverage on climate change is a little like that conversation about aliens, he said.
The real debates in climate change are around the solutions/false solutions, said environmental activist, Rehana Dada. She also argued that it's very critical to be talking about climate adaptations with respect to basic service delivery, i.e., making sure that people have access to food, water, affordable energy and so on.
Bandile Mdlalose of Abahlali baseMjondolo (The South African Shack Dwellers Movement) said that most people think of climate change as a future crisis, but "we at Abahlali baseMjondolo think of it as a crisis that is affecting us now." She argued that the media should go directly to poor communities to learn first-hand how climate change is affecting them.
Nawaal Domingo of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance said that business was interested in profit only, while the poor were more likely to be interested in preserving our natural resources. She reported that there are lots of children dying from asthma in South Durban due to pollution, but that the media doesn't pay too much attention.
We should be talking about climate justice, not climate change said, SACSIS columnist, Dr. Dale McKinley. Talking about climate justice highlights the fact that this problem is about the political economy, he argued. McKinley also said that the climate change debate prefaces the serious divides in South African society and that we shouldn't sugar coat this.
There is a lack of analysis of the broader political economy, globalization and global economic policies that our governments have adopted with respect to reporting on climate change, argued SACSIS columnist, Michelle Pressend. For example, there is a lot of talk about how farmers have to change their planting seasons, seeds, and so on, but the whole aspect about trade, international subsidies and how food security is affected by global corporations, is left out.
Glenn Ashton, SACSIS columnist, argued that the nature of the media is really the polarized nature of the media. It doesn't seem to matter much, for example, that the debate over climate denialism is over, it still seems to crop up in newspapers. Ashton also added that the business media had not picked up on the issue of climate adaptation and how it can be used to kick start local economies.
Mark Allix who is a correspondent at Business Day and also a SACSIS trustee recognized the high levels of pollution that the Medupi and Kusile power plants would emit, as well as the fact that South Africa, per capita, is one of the biggest polluters in the world with SASOL and Eskom being largely to blame, but wondered how to reconcile the contradictions between economic dynamism and pollution as a journalist in the media, especially one writing for a business newspaper.
Mohamed Motala, executive director of CASE asked at the SACSIS/FES roundtable on the media and climate change, what does civil society have to do to make journalists uncomfortable enough to report on an issue? He was concerned that the media does not pay enough attention to cross cutting issues such as poverty, class, race, gender and inequality.
Critically acclaimed novelist and chairperson of the South African Civil Society Information Service (SACSIS), William Gumede told delegates at a roundtable discussion on "The Media and Climate Change" that climate change is about bread and butter issues. While setting the context for the discussion, Gumede said that SACSIS was interested in how the media uses its position to raise public awareness about climate change.
In his opening remarks at a roundtable discussion on "The Media and Climate Change," Olivier Serrao of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) South Africa Office, talked about the work of the foundation in the country. FES is a private cultural, non-profit political institution committed to the ideas and basic values of a social democracy and the labour movement.
Fazila Farouk, executive director of The South African Civil Society Information Service (SACSIS) opened the SACSIS/Friedrich Ebert Stiftung roundtable discussion on "The Media and Climate Change." The event sought to examine how the South African media is reporting on climate change in the run up to COP17. In her opening remarks, Farouk argued that the poor are disproportionately affected by climate change.
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