Media insight: Climate change process goes over our heads

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Report by NewsroomPlus.com

Contributed by Olex Barnes 

What a great outing for the media it was yesterday. Such fun and excitement was to be had by us, as we pointed our cameras towards the roof of Parliament. Where four members of Greenpeace had managed to sneak up and unfurl not the most flattering of banners of John Key, as well as erecting several solar panels with which they could keep their electronics functioning.

Then at the prearranged time they abseiled down to peacefully get carted off by the police as we the media stood behind the barriers, loving every minute of it, with our inflated sense of importance, as the real story passed us by, the reason why Greenpeace was up there in the first place. The biggest threat that we currently face as a species, climate change.

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Flickr User: Nattu

The timing for the protests have been opportune, following on from in Wellington found ourselves cut off from our family and houses in the suburbs after another extreme weather event. Then barely a month later the Manawatu-Whanganui region is hit by a once in eighty year flooding that forced many people from their homes. This coupled with the extreme drought the North Island was faced with in 2012. Wellington did not see rain for over a month, something practically unheard of in the city of four seasons in one day. These climactic events are becoming more and more frequent. Climate change has moved away from data graphs to events that we are now experiencing with increasing frequency.

It’s this mounting evidence that was the reason for those activists being up on the roof of Parliament, and we the media should have taken their cue, and through truthfully speaking we should never have need for them to give us that cue, but we did and that is to our detriment.

A simple task was given to us, to start a conversation about what needs to be done to help combat climate change, to bring it into the public eye so that it can be seen to be discussed, and yes, so that pressure can then be applied to politicians and action can be taken.

As I stood outside Parliament last night, my fingers losing sensation (no you cannot use that to disprove climate change) my own camera locked on the events, I took mental stock of those members of the media around me. A median age similar to mine, mid 20’s. Those of us that are going to spend the majority of our lives facing the consequences of climate change. Here we were with this great opportunity to help change things. We could write articles, tying together the recent extreme weather that we have all witnessed to what we can expect in the future and what Greenpeace was doing on that roof. We could have furnished those stories with pictures of those families in Manawatu-Whanganui, and Taranaki who have lost everything in the flooding. Driven the point home.

Yet this was not the narrative that we chose to take, we focused on the immediate spectacle of activists abseiling down the front of parliament taking shots of them as they landed and police officers calming walked up to them to arrest them, then commenting on how they were lead away to the cheers of the crowd behind us. Then we turned the conversation back to narrow circumstances, focusing on the activists themselves, the messengers rather than the message. Now we are focusing on the potential of criminal charges, subtle and conventional vilification as a way of discrediting them and their message.

So at the end of this I would like to say that we the media, dropped the ball which we do on a regular basis, but this time those that reported are of an age who will face the consequences of not taking action on Climate Change and if we do not pick up the ball and run with it, we and our descendants are the ones that are going to suffer.

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Further Reading: Climate change are we listening – Brent Edwards, Radio New Zealand

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Selwyn Manning, BCS (Hons.) MCS (Hons.) is an investigative political journalist with 23 years media experience. He specializes in reportage and analysis of socioeconomics, politics, foreign affairs, and security/intelligence issues. Selwyn has extensive experience as a commentator and has provided live political analysis to a wide range of television and radio organizations broadcasting in New Zealand, Australia and globally including the BBC (Five Live, London) and BBC (World Service). He is currently a correspondent to Australia's FiveAA radio, and is a regular live-on-air panelist on Radio New Zealand's The Panel with broadcaster Jim Mora.

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