CUNEO, ITALY – Experts in the world increasingly criticize a model of economic growth that dominated the last century and the dogma of the gross domestic product (GDP) as a prior sense of the development. Instead of a new unsustainable exploitation of the Earth, scientific discussions are focusing on the issues of happiness and quality of life, such as during the Greenaccord conference of environmental journalists in Cuneo last week, from October 13 to 16.
American economist Robert Costanza put a simple question to Australian expert Karlson Charlie Hargroves –why economic growth to consider something necessary. Growth means the irreversible consuming of the Nature, which always results in the creation of waste. So, the argument that threats to the planet could be reduced by innovative and efficient technologies has not been found convincing by more than 130 journalists gathered from 40 countries.
Recession of happiness
"Why not put on the table the stopping of the growth?“, asks Costanza, professor of environmental economics at the University of Vermonth. He added that „business as usual” is utopia but not the sustainable development.
Instead of economy based on measuring GDP, participants at the Greenaccord forum in Cuneo discussed happiness and quality of life as relevant factors to human progress. “Since 1950's America faces growth of GDP, but reduction of satisfaction with the quality of life of the people. Therefore, we may speak about the happiness recession“, highlighted Costanza.
Speakers challenged trend of privatization of public sector which is a common process in all transition countries, for example central, east and south east Europe. Interests of private capital can not meet needs of the public for common services, but anyway many politicians argue that „state is the bad owner“. Asked to comment this claim, very usual in countries like Croatia, Austrian sustainable development expert Friedrich Hinterberger states that it is false generalization. „Ownership is not an essential issue. More important are clear rules and laws. Privatization of companies makes sense, but not the privatization of the systems that provide services to the public, such as water and forest management. I can not claim that the red sludge disaster in Hungary occurred because the company was private. However, it is sure it would not happened if adopted proper regulations and that they have been respected“, explained Hinterberger.
Erik Assadourian, expert of Worldwatch, an American think thank organisation, focused on overcoming consumerism and a system in which people are trained to consum products in order to satisfy interests of industrial and political elites. For that purpose the system uses special techniques to make masses of consumers. Assadourian used an example of propaganda campaigns for street security in different countries in which state authorities and car industry joined forces to impose that streets are vehicle's area. „People are not educated, they are literary trained to respect the rules that favor cars.”
A senior expert in Worldwatch Gary Gardner states that end of the consumerism has to be found in philosophical fundaments which are incorporated in many Worlds religions. He mentioned thoughts like “the rich is who realize he has enough” and Gandhi’s seven signs, as an example of similar moral principals existing in different parts of the world.
Eco cities – urban in natural environment
Practical project promoted German architect Joaquin Eble, author of the book 'Eco Cities'. He explained that practical solutions for environmentally friendly human habitats already are happening in different parts of the world. He spoke about the low energy consumption cities existing from Taiwan to Germany. “Eco cities are part of the environment. There is no strict border between the nature and urban area”, explains Eble.
A city he designed in Taiwan has a supply system for heating energy connected with the animal farms situated nearby. The system uses biogas from the farms to generate heating energy for the city. This is an example of cooperation between urban and rural area in satisfying the needs for energy and removing environmental problem like bad smell and pollution of soil and waters.
Stories from journalists
The eighth Greenaccord forum gathered more than 130 journalists from 40 countries from five continents and 40 speakers, which proved this is one of the world’s biggest gatherings of environmental journalists.
The network connects very active environmental journalists who present their work during each forum. Brazilian journalist Haroldo Castro spoke about eight months long project “Lights of Africa” during which he and his son Mikael researched positive stories across the continent. While the world was counting days before the FIFA World Soccer Cup 2010, Castro father and son 5300 kilometers long expedition to find reportages like coast conservation in Ghana, peace in Sudan, examples of ecotourism and to publish them in Brasilian weekly Epoca and TV stations. www.lightsofafrica.com
Colombian journalists Zilia Castrillon highlighted global food injustice which is a consequence of high subsidies of governments in rich Northern countries to industrial agriculture while poor farmers on the South are struggling to hold a piece of their land. Zilia investigates abuse of local communities in rural Columbia where farmers risk their lives if they own agricultural land from big corporations and paid paramilitary groups. To raise a public awareness on the situation where people are not protected by any public institution, while silence of mass media, she participated in a campaign of Canadian organization “Development and Peace” that calls for global food sovergnity.
Environmental journalism in United States currently faces many challenges such as sophisticating public relationships of big corporations and greenwashing. “Corporations use their legal obligation to clean up some site, polluted by their business, in reports on sustainable development, as positive examples. The same is with donations to environmental NGOs. Oil companies like to have image as they invest in renewable energy, but it is only a few percent of their whole investments”, said American journalist Cristine MacDonald, author of the book “Green, Inc.” that exposed resources of financing of some major U.S. environmental groups.
Alexandra De Blas summarized environmental agenda in Australia, where from is also Jon Dee who suggested improvements for Greenaccord future meetings. During the meeting, he said, could be organized side events such as workshops for journalists to summarize information from the speeches, discussions. Dee said that Greenaccord staff made an enormous effort to organise all these meetings and establish global network of environmental journalists. At the beginning of the meeting the coordinator of International Federation of Environmental Journalists (IFEJ) Darryl D’Monte called participants to join this network, aswell. The meeting learned about new journalist’s movement “VJ movement” which promoted its editor Tjeerd Rooyaards from The Netherlands.
Around 150 journalists from 100 countries gathered to network in publishing videos and cartoons that address some of major political, social and environmental global issues. Their website, said Rooyards, published around 270 cartoons and 310 videos since 2009. The network functions as a sort of global cooperative of journalists in which office in Hague announce call for features, buy cartoons, videos and news from journalists and then sell them to other media. Journalists from different countries can reach much wider market because the office, which has support from three Dutch foundations, invests in promotion.
Greenaccord meetings are one of the most important annual events of environmental journalism, since 2003. Recent years meetings was organized in a towns near Rome and this was first meeting on the Italia’s North, in a charming medieval town Cuneo “at the foot of the Maritime Alps”.#