Last week, Copenhagen hosted the launch event of the European Blogging Competition TH!NK ABOUT IT – Round #2: Climate Change. The competition brought together 92 bloggers from all over Europe, and special guests from Brazil, China, India, Mexico, South Africa and the USA.
The competition aims to raise awareness about climate change and discuss the consequences of climate change in different countries, points of view all over the world, and how local media and the public approach the subject. Organized by the EJC (European Journalism Centre), the launch event was split over two days, the first featuring a series of lectures from experts on climate change, and the second devoted to a visit to the Danish eco-village of Dyssekilde, in the north of the country.
The launch event kicked off with a welcome lecture by Wilfried Rütten, Director of the EJC, followed by a talk by Svend Olling, Head of Department, COP15 Logistics. Mr. Olling gave a presentation on the work that the Danish government has done for the competition and the expectations surrounding the COP15 conference.
Journalists from many parts of the world joined a round-table discussion moderated by Raymond Frenken from EUX-TV. Names such as Tasha Eichenseher, a National Geographic science producer and editor, Gerald Traufetter, a science and technology correspondent for Der Spiegel, Asbjørn Jørgensen, from the Århus School of Media and Journalism in Denmark, and Ramesh Jaura, Regional Director of IPS Europe, discussed how the media covers issue relating to climate change and the environment.
François Roudié, the European Commission Policy Coordinator, gave a rundown on the EU's response to climate change. A counterpoint to this was provided by Andreas Barkman from the European Environmental Agency, and Head of the Group for Climate Change Mitigation, who highlighted the problematic aspects of the negotiations that are going to be held at COP15.
Greenpeace Nordic Executive Director Mads Christensen also underlined what bloggers can do to encourage climate change discussion and voiced Greenpeace's expectations for a possible agreement resulting from COP15. In his talk, he expressed the view that, taking into account current negotiations and the speeches of national leaders all over the world, a huge cut in CO2 emissions and an idealistic agreement are unlikely to take place.
Probably the most eagerly anticipated lecture of the day was given by Søren Hermansen. Søren was one of the Heroes of the Environment named by TIME magazine in 2008, and he gave a presentation on the Samso experiment before the audience of bloggers. This experiment aims to introduce alternative energy resources to local environments. In this case, wind energy is responsible for meeting all the villagers’ energy demands. Readers can check out some of the Samso experiment photos in this Flickr pool by Phil Lacombe.
On the second day of the event, bloggers visited the eco-village of Dyssekilde in the north of the country. The village has 70 households and a population of 130 adults and 50 children. It was created more than 20 years ago, and its inhabitants share an environmental approach, feeling the urge to act as pioneers of a lifestyle that allows a more ecologically friendly, sustainable community. Like the Samso experiment, Dyssekilde also depends on wind energy to meet the villagers’ energy demands, and since they don't use much of the energy, what is left over is sold to a Danish energy company.
Dyssekilde houses have a peculiar appearance. Villagers build their own homes, and many of them have solar panels attached in order to encourage the use of clean energy. Houses also have south-facing windows, so that they can make as much use of the solar energy and natural light as possible, and reduce the use of internal lights and heating units during the day.
Another great example of sustainable living in Dyssekilde is the non-chemical waste water cleaning system. The villagers created the system based on natural cleaning, which uses 30.000 willows to cleanse the water thoroughly, without chemicals or other products. Even though their current system reached its maximum capacity in 2006, they are now planning to build the biggest non-chemical waste water cleaning system in the world.
Who are these bloggers anyway?
“Would you like to participate in an international blogging competition about Climate Change in Copenhagen?” Some ninety people from all over the world said YES to the above question and have just spent three days in Denmark, attending the launch event of the TH!NK ABOUT IT blogging competition. But who are those people? And why did they decide to engage in environmental cyberactivism?
Most participants came from Europe, but the novelty of this second edition of TH!NK ABOUT IT was the participation of people from various developing countries, such as Brazil, India, Mexico, China and South Africa. Many participants came from Eastern Europe, but Western Europe was also well represented, with many British and Italian bloggers. The nature of their blogs and their motives for participating in the event were as diverse as their countries of origin.
Many professional journalists also took part in the competition, showing that blogging can add to a profession that already deals with reporting and expressing one's views of the world. Charles Nisz Lourenço, from Brazil, works as a journalist and is about to start a PhD in Economics, and is quite new to blogging. He only started his personal blog, Fragmentos da Realidade Cotidiana [Fragments of Daily Reality, pt] in February this year, and has covered political, financial and environmental issues; he also blogs for the Lixo Eletrônico blog, which was behind the Electronic Waste Manifesto.
Maltese journalist Keith Demicoli has his own TV program about politics in “the happiest place on Earth”, as he described his country of origin, and is participating in the TH!NK ABOUT IT competition for the second time.
Chinese-Spanish language translator Ding Dawei, also known by his Spanish name, “Diego”, works as a professional journalist for the Chinese People's Daily [en], but is a newcomer to blogging, through which he wishes to look more closely at Climate Change issues and expand his horizons.
Non-journalists were, however, in the majority. A friendly pair of bloggers from Pilani in India, brother Abhishek Nayak and his sister Anindita Nayak, enjoyed the launch event for the competition. She is only 18 years old, but already blogs for the AoC Initiative, a youth delegation to the UN Negotiations on Climate Change. He was coy about his blog, which he says is “full of very ironic comments”, but with a little pushing we got the URL. He has been blogging since 2006 about politics and Indian issues, as well as sharing his photos and news about events he attends.
Lucy Setian [bg], from Bulgaria, works as a journalist, but has an online dream-come-true literary project with her boyfriend called Azcheta.com [bg], where they write book reviews and organize literary events in Sofia, and have gained fame with events such as “Coffee goes with books, not cigarettes”. Blogging about the environment allows her to address her political aspirations, too.
American Devin McIntire, from California, USA, has just set up the blog The Green Cadet, hoping to disseminate green business opportunities online and, who knows, maybe one day make them happen in reality. He believes that the solutions for environmental problems will come not from politicians, but rather from local eco-entrepreneurial initiatives.
Some bloggers were notably more high-tech than the others, like the Italian Frederico Pistono, who participates in no fewer than 12 blogs! A movie maker, from the beginning of the launch event he was filming the bloggers (at lectures, on the metro, etc), and is bound to have some interesting video clips of the competition. Here are some other blogs where you can check out his work: AsianCineBlog [it] and Activism [it].
Other video bloggers were present at the competition. The British drama student Matthew Turner maintains a YouTube account where he “takes the piss out of himself” online – in typical British style, he aims to treat serious issues with humor.
Radka Lankasova has a personal blog and is also a contributor to the number one blog in the Czech Republic, but her main motivation is to make friends and travel through blogging opportunities like TH!NK ABOUT IT.
Some bloggers taking part in the competition were still crawling in the blogosphere or experimenting with it for various reasons, but the EJC (European Journalism Commission) hopes to encourage them to start blogging about the environment, too. From 23rd September to 16th December 2009 bloggers will discuss climate change on the official competition platform. Although there are prizes, one of them being an environmentalist's dream – to attend the COP15 conference for two weeks in Copenhagen with all expenses paid by the EJC – there is a sense of community rather than rivalry amongst the bloggers. As you can see, there are plenty of reasons to blog about the environment!