WDCD Live Amsterdam 2017: Activation Session Report

Countering Media Monologues


Published in Climate Action & WDCD by

‘We’re all aware of our mortality, but we prefer not to dwell on it too much.’ Xandra Schutte introduced the session with this observation. The same could be said about climate change, she added. Everybody knows that something’s not right, but scary stories about species on the brink of extinction, coral reefs dying, riverbeds running dry and so on prove counter-productive. They turn us off the subject.

So how should the media report on climate change? What strategy works best? How can the media avoid alienating readers and viewers and, instead, inspire them?

Multimedia Platform

Schutte, editor-in-chief of De Groene Amsterdammer, a Dutch bi-weekly critical review, explored these questions in an activation session that took the form of a public editorial meeting for an imaginary ‘multimedia platform’.

Journalist Sanne Bloemink noted that negative news makes readers cynical. While stressing the need to make readers feel that they ‘want to be part of this mass movement’, she warned about easily accepting the currently popular notion that, thanks to social media, ‘we are all media now’. She argued that there’s still a role for investigative journalism in an effective multimedia platform.

Shout, Scream, Sing, Whisper

Her views were echoed by copywriter Naresh Ramchandani, who called for a multitude of voices. Some people like to shout and scream, others nudge and motivate, others sing, seduce, whisper — to him, there’s a role for all of them in the media landscape. Just as copywriters help advertisers make all sorts of unsustainable things desirable, his ‘Do The Green Thing’ aims to make green desirable.

Unmake Things

Professor Erik de Jong observed that, though climate change affects all of us, the media consign it to the science pages. In passing, he also questioned the urge of designers to make things as a way of solving problems. They should, he argued, learn to ‘unmake things’. He also aimed a parting shot at designers: ‘They should learn to talk in an understandable way.’

Local and Collective

Sociologist Manu Busschots, the initiator of the ‘Climate Talks’ called for new voices and images. Stories of change, rather than information, will work. That sentiment was echoed by Evanne Nowak with her appeal for ‘fewer statistics and more people’. Professor Trudy Dehue summed it up when she said the platform would be ‘local, about people, collective action, and forms of collective intelligence’. The ultimate aim is to connect common interests to climate change.

Who are our audience? Naresh Ramchandani pondered, before describing the new platform as ‘somewhere between National Geographic and Nature magazines’.

Top photo: Sanne Bloemink during the session (photo Leo Veger)

COUNTERING MEDIA MONOLOGUES was one of five Activation Sessions exploring the theme of climate action and media at WDCD Live Amsterdam 2017.


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