The need for environmental information

Written by Fabien Beaudet

After the end of the COP 21[i], last December 12, access to environmental information is slowly falling back out of our consciousness. Information media are getting back into immediacy and into some sort of normalcy. What impact does this have on how we perceive and understand our world, our daily lives?

In this context, it is interesting to listen to our media. They reflect our own collective schizophrenia. Last December 12, during a news report[ii] of SRC (CBC in French) on the last day of negotiation regarding the proceedings of the COP 21, the newscaster struggled with the term “circular economy”, not knowing what it meant. What is fascinating here is the lack of knowledge this reflects. It is something that is common in our media when they talk about environment. It is disquieting that some twenty years after the Kyoto Protocol, our media have not integrated the broad macrosociology and macroeconomics issues related to climate change. It does not occur to them, either, to analyse the news through this essential lens to understand our contemporary reality. This surprise about the term “circular economy”[iii] has also been heard on other terms identifying the implementation of new environmental behaviours related to energy and, more broadly, to resources and the economy.

How then not to correlate this lack of knowledge with the difficulty we have, as a community, to integrate the very idea of climate change and the challenges it generates in order to maintain or adapt our economic and social behaviours? Environmental information, and more broadly the analysis of the news through an environment filter, are purely absent of our media.[iv] It is necessary, through the Internet, to refer to information and analysis from outside the Québec scenes in order to get first-hand information

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: EDUCATION AND AWARENESS-BUILDING STILL REQUIRED

Few consumers know the environmental impact of the products they purchase:

·       I don’t know — 9.5% (- 1.6 pt)

·       I know nothing at all — 13.0% (- 4.9 pts)

·       I know a little about it — 53.0% (+ 1.9 pt)

·       I know the major impacts — 22.5% (+ 6.6 pts)

·       I know a lot about it — 1.9% (- 2.0 pts)

Source: OCR 2015

. Here, little time and resources are allocated to this topic, other than the columns and detailed stories related to the schedule of the climate negotiations.

Besides people who are committed and passionate about environmental issues, there remains much too many others who are left in ignorance of the impacts our current lifestyles have on the environment. Can we then be surprised that it is difficult to implement new approaches, to think up a world with more respect for the environment? Citizens are seen like people who struggle to understand a complex and multi-disciplinary issue. This opinion is widespread by the media during electoral campaigns where there sometimes is talk of eco-taxation systems, circular economy, energy transition, etc. We often hear: “Citizens will never understand the underlying programs”, so we might as well not talk about it and deal with simpler issues. This results in a process of opinion construction where citizens will see themselves as incapable of judgement and understanding.

The SADC is certainly not an information medium. On the other hand, it has a mission to guide communities in their development, which raises two challenges: 1) bridging the gap between what is and what we want in terms of awareness-building on environmental issues and knowledge of the existing tools to ensure a better respect of ecosystems; and 2) influencing decision-makers on the choices they must make to ensure the economic and social development of their communities; because to be viable and time-relevant, harmonization between the projects and the host environments (including natural ecosystems) must be at the center of all thoughts and actions.

The SADC offers tools to improve the communities’ capabilities in that regard. Thus, it offers expert guidance to support the integration of sustainable development:

  • Agenda 21 – for communities
  • GRI 4 – for SMEs
    • Integration of circular economy (industrial or commercial symbiosis)
  • Conferences and facilitations

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In conclusion, the 21st century will most certainly not be like the 20th. It must give way to a symbiosis with the environment, which is imperative if we are to avoid the 6th mass extinction[v]. You think I’m exaggerating? You never heard of it? Well, back we go to the beginning of this column: “circular”. 

[i] COP21 means “21st Conference of the Parties”. In this case, we are talking about the parties - 195 countries at the moment - that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, drafted in 1992 with the following objective: "stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system".

[ii] Faut pas croire tout ce qu’on dit. Radio-Canada Première, Saturdays at 12PM. http://ici.radio-canada.ca/emissions/faut_pas_croire_tout_ce_qu_on_dit/2015-2016/

[iii] Refer to the Internet site dedicated to the Fondation Ellen MaCarthur on this topic: http://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/overview/concept

[iv] Baillargeon, Stéphane, Le vert dans les médias. Released in the Le Devoir newspaper on April 18, 2015. http://www.ledevoir.com/societe/medias/437530/le-vert-dans-les-medias

[v] Kolbert, E. (2015). La 6e extinction. Guy Saint-Jean ed., 406 p.

 

 

Fabien Beaudet
Conseiller financement et RSE
819 986-1747 poste 211
fbeaudet@sadcpapineau.ca

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