Communication rights are at the heart of climate justice
On August 8, 2021, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a major report that unequivocally links climate change to human activity and predicts heat waves, droughts and more frequent and severe flooding in the years to come. The report, released ahead of the COP 26 conference in November, is a major wake-up call for governments and businesses around the world.
As the effects of climate change accelerate, we must remember that they will not be felt the same across the world. Low-income communities in the South, such as indigenous peoples, family farmers, the urban poor and rural women, are expected to be much more affected by climate change than people living in higher latitudes in richer countries. , although they played hardly any role in the EC. This is due to changing agricultural areas, rainfall patterns, and pressure on poor urban infrastructure, among other factors.
Yet many of the southern communities most affected by climate change are at the forefront of environmental and climate struggles. We could even argue that local struggles to stop extraction projects, such as building new oil and gas infrastructure, often led by indigenous and rural communities, may simply represent our best hope of stopping emissions in the light. the continued failure of governments and businesses. do this.
Unfortunately, we hardly hear their voices and concerns in the media. Indigenous communities and frontline leaders in the fight against the climate crisis are struggling to make their voices heard in political and media spheres. Indigenous peoples may attract media attention for their clothing, culture or spirituality, but rarely for their political actions, which increasingly take the form of calls for climate justice. On the contrary, corporate media often portray indigenous peoples as “living in the past and enjoying special undeserved rights” and colonial stereotypes are rife.
These problems are symptomatic of the many economic, institutional and political obstacles that hamper the meaningful participation of indigenous, rural and marginalized communities in society. In this context, the promotion of communication rights, which essentially consists in calling for the democratization of the media, communication and information systems throughout the world, becomes essential to face climate justice. Unless the people leading the fight against the climate crisis on the ground, such as indigenous and other vulnerable communities, can get their stories heard and seen by the general public, it will be very difficult to generate political will at national levels. and international level to take immediate action to address this crisis.
In Canada, a growing number of Indigenous communities are leading conservation and sustainable development efforts through the Indigenous Leadership Initiative (ILI). Last April, the federal government announced $ 340 million over five years to support Indigenous leadership in conservation; $ 173 million will be used to strengthen the work of ILI’s Indigenous Guardians Program. Indigenous custodians are “trained experts who manage protected areas, restore animals and plants, test water quality and monitor development” in their communities and beyond. They also connect young people with elders to prepare them to become “the next generation of educators, ministers and leaders”.
Communication rights and climate justice activists should work together to advance actions such as these and build links between local climate activists and the media; promote better access to media, internet and ICTs among indigenous and marginalized communities; advocate for the allocation of broadcasting licenses to community groups; and strengthen the capacity of indigenous and other grassroots communities to engage with the media.
For the majority of people, information about climate change and how to deal with it comes from the media and information sources. The media have the power to ‘drive’ political debate and policy decisions and, as such, media activism for climate justice should be seen as a major part of tackling the crisis.
Image credit: Association of Indigenous Councils of North Cauca (ACIN), a WACC partner in Colombia.
Lorenzo Vargas is a development communication specialist and citizen media researcher. Lorenzo coordinates WACC Global’s Communications for Social Change program, which supports community media and citizen journalism initiatives in Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Pacific and Africa. Global WACC is an international NGO which promotes communication as a fundamental human right, essential for the dignity and the community of persons. She is a member of the ACT Alliance.