A Few Words With the Protesters

From what I have heard the US media is primarily reporting on the growing violence of the protests at COP15. As usual they are only covering the violence and destruction caused by a small minority of protesters.  I actually got the chance to go around and interview some of the protesters during my stay here.  I think you will find that these people only wish to have their voices heard.

The first person I talked to was in charge of the oil sheik protesters ( I should have the video up soon).  They represented a coalition of Christians in the Netherlands and they came to Copenhagen to protest in a peaceful and creative way.

This is Hannah from a Methodist group in England.  She obviously feels very passionate about the environment.  I apologize for the sound.  It was very noisy and Hannah talked really fast.  As you can see many of the protesters were not environmental crazies.  Rather they are just people who want to prevent climate change from occurring.

This man is from Turkey and is studying in Europe.  He came with a group of friends however, during the protests he got separated.  Instead of heading somewhere warm he decided instead to stay outside the Bella Center and protest. This situation is not unique there was a lot of people who just showed up on their own because they wanted to voice their support for a strong climate change treaty out of Kyoto.

Hopefully this post has shown that the majority of the protesters and not crazy people trying to punch cops and interfere with meetings.  Rather they wish to make the leaders at COP15 aware of their concerns.  I really wish I had more interviews but the cameras battery died and it is not easy to communicate with people during a protest.

Ben Roberts

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3 Responses

  1. Ben,

    This is good reporting (on your part). Last night (Wednesday – Dec. 16) Amy Goodman on the U.S. TV news called “Democracy Now” focused on the protests. She did a good job, it seems, of emphasizing the substantive concerns of people who are critical of the way the official conference is going.

    For example, she had interviews with African and Latin American non-governmental organization leaders who point to documented problems of the consequences of climate chage – such as the melting of the glaciers that supply year-round water in Bolivia. [The New York Times did a front page story on this on Monday (Dec. 14).

    I think one of the core services you and the rest of the Alma delegation can provide is insight into the real mix of official procedures and NGO critics.

    Keep up the good reporting.

    I

  2. After seeing these videos, my hopes for the outcome of the Copenhagen Conference have risen dramatically. The news has been covering a lot of negative stories lately and it’s hard to find the truth, because the truth often times doesn’t get attention like risk.

    An article in the New York Times reads, “Outside Climate Talks, Protesters March on the Hall.” It continues to talk about how 260 protesters who were arrested in Copenhagen for their demonstrations on the streets. Articles like this are pouring in from the media and people at home continue to think nothing is being resolved and that violence floods the conference.

    In his book, Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere, Robert Cox talks about risk communication. He defines it as communication that seeks to inform potentially affected individuals about the existence, nature, severity, or acceptability of an environmental danger (1). The biggest reason, as he sees it, that the media covers risk is because it gets attention. The audience generally is accepting of this and news stories about risk are increasingly popular.

    The Copenhagen Conference is trying to change the way that climate change has previously been dealt with. I believe that they have already made tremendous strides with this objective by getting so many leaders to participate. In the Death of Environmentalism by Shellenberger and Nordhaud, they bash the environmental movement and say that it has basically been a failure because no one is working together and every organization is too caught up with their own agenda. This conference is a stepping stone for future environmental problems and I’m glad I’m alive to see the process.

    The Copenhagen Conference has changed ideals and shown that people do care and want to do something. These videos project true behind the scenes action that I might not have found if I wasn’t an Alma College student. The videos have raised my hopes and expectations for the conference and I’m excited to see the eventual outcome.

    Kanter. “Outside Climate Talks, Protesters Match on the Hall.” New York Times.
    2009. 15 December,

    Cox, R. (n.d.). Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere (2nd ed). Los Angeles:
    Sage Publications Inc.

    Shellenberger, M., & Nordhaus, T. (2004). The Death of Environmentalism. Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus.

  3. Of course the US media would focus on violence at the COP15 Conference… “If it bleeds it leads.” It’s the spectacles that get noticed, and in this case, media is focusing in on a spectacle within a spectacle. Violence and disasters are immediate and emotional visual images that gain the attention of the public. If it’s readers and ratings that media are looking for then it makes sense for them to cover issues that would pique interest.

    Unless you experience an issue firsthand, you have to rely on information which is often filtered by others. These middlemen are the gatekeepers, framing stories to fit their own agenda. By covering the issues they feel are important, they are actually telling us what to think about, they govern what will be discussed around the water cooler tomorrow at the office.

    This is a major problem when what we actually need to be focusing on are the discussions of the conference. Of course public reaction is important, but we need to keep in mind what everyone is gathering for: taking action against climate change. I’m worried that the public could lose sight of the importance of COP15 and everything it stands for and instead see only the violence or negative responses. Some claim that the conference is a failure, and it very well could become one (at least in the public eye).

    These video interviews show that protest does not always involve pandemonium. A calm and collected message is just as powerful and perhaps even more effective (as long as it is backed by a strong voice). As Ben stated, these people just want their voices to be heard. I enjoyed the oil sheik protestors’ idea for the future use of oil drums; it’s clever and light-hearted, yet it still gets the point across. One quote that stood out to me came from the Turkish man: “Our house in on fire, our house is burning. We need to do something about it.”

    Words are out strongest ally in effective communication. As long as we keep this in mind and pick our “fights” wisely, I think media coverage can stay on track covering what is most significant.

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