I’m going to expose what I consider to be a direct attempt by the United Nations to manipulate the media and the public into acting on the ‘biodiversity crisis’. Before I do that, I feel compelled to say at least one good thing about the UN. They are very open with their documentation. All the documents I reference in this article were taken directly from their website here, or from websites which are linked within those documents. They aren’t making an attempt to hide the following.
You may have heard in the news recently that there is a biodiversity meeting taking place right now in Japan. It is called the The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), here is their website. The UN seems to be pushing biodiversity much more this year than ever before (this is the International Year of Biodiversity), so I decided to go through the documents released at the convention and see what they are talking about. Here is what I have found:
1. The UN has actively trained journalists (called ‘media training’) in the proper way to cover biodiversity stories
2. The UN has developed partnerships with news organizations to release biodiversity stories and press releases
3. Developed educational programs (called ‘education for sustainable development’) incorporating biodiversity teaching intended for children, also created The Green Wave program to reach out to children
4. Developed so called Communication, Education, and Public Awareness (CEPA) toolkits and workshops in order to “create broadly based support for the issues” by giving advice like this: “To involve people, nothing is more powerful than working on their emotions”
I will take each of these in turn and show what they have already done and what they are trying to do. Let’s start with the UN engaging in ‘media training’ on how to report biodiversity.
It is spelled out explicitly in this pdf, entitled Communication, Education, and Public Awareness, written on August 15, 2010. On page 5 of the pdf there is a section entitled Priority Activity 4 – Media Relations. Here is a screen capture of the first few points in that section:
Let’s focus on the second point. They say:
Thanks to the financial assistance of the Government of the Netherlands, media training was carried out at the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties. Journalists from developing countries participated in briefings on the issues under discussion at the meeting of the Conference of the Parties and wrote articles. The success of the training inspired the planning of another media briefing at the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, with financing from the Government of Spain. This practice has increased press coverage of meetings of the Conference of the Parties, and had led to the development of a roster of media interested in biodiversity stories.
They are openly training the media in how to report biodiversity stories. This schedule and this schedule both confirm this, both the 23’rd and 24’th are devoted entirely to ‘media training’. What exactly is media training? It certainly sounds bad, but there are very few details to go on. Here is an account from a group sending reporters to the conference:
Both reporters will also attend a two day media training coordinated by the CBD Secretariat which will help provide them with insight as to the issues at this conference. It is also planned that experiences learnt at the CBD COP 10 be shared nationally with their fellow media colleagues upon return.
I’m not sure what providing insight entails. The objectivity of reporters who attend a two day training session would seem to be in question, especially when the report lauds what positive results were obtained from the last round of media training.
UN / Media partnership
The UN has also joined in partnerships with certain news agencies to issue biodiversity stories:
15. In support of this priority activity, the Executive Secretary carried out a number of activities including integrating journalists into subregional workshops on CEPA, developing partnerships with media organizations such as Inter Press Services (IPS), the Panos Institute, IIED, as well as working even more closely with the network of regional information officers of the United Nations Environment Programme. This has taken place at the same time that there have been an increase in the number of announcements, press releases and stories that are sent out to media.
Also a few points down this appears:
18. For the International Year of Biodiversity, a partnership was established with Inter Press Services to disseminate stories about biodiversity during the year. A biodiversity reporting guide was also created and published in English and Spanish: http://www.ipsnews.net/_adv/Biodiversidad2010.pdf http://www.ipsnoticias.net/_adv/Biodiversidad2010.pdf.
The UN created partnerships with the Inter Press Service (IPS), the Panos Institute, and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). A quick look at these sites shows that the partnership has yielded nothing but positive stories about the convention; this is especially true of the IPS. Let’s take a look at that IPS biodiversity reporting guide and see what it contains.
The “Biodiversity Reporting Guidelines -Putting life on the front page” consist of three documents. The main document provides context and definitions, as well as examples of significant linkages between biodiversity and a range of sectors. The document includes ideas for writing biodiversity stories and how to pitch them to editors and present them to readers. It also outlines key reporting and journalism principles.
This main document is accompanied by:
a. A calendar of biodiversity-related events (meetings, conferences, etcetera) held around world over the May 2010-January 2011 period. The list also includes significant dates celebrated worldwide, which can be useful as pegs or opportunities for reports and stories.
b. A list of international conventions, treaties and agreements linked directly or indirectly to biodiversity, with links to institutional web sites and, in some cases, a brief description of the instrument.
That is pretty cut and dry, but just in case you are a journalist lacking any ambition or originality at all, they give you a list of possible story ideas:
2. Unexpected events, such as disasters or crises, offer excellent opportunities for reporting and writing feature stories with in-depth analyses of related issues. The challenge is to go beyond what is visible on the surface, because every event has an immediate cause and an underlying cause. The immediate cause is the most visible and obvious link. Reporters must reveal what lies beneath, because more often than not the underlying causes are more important. Exploring and exposing the underlying causes makes for good journalism, by adding new information, new insights and new understandings. For example:
• A big coastal storm can be used
to explore the status of mangrove
destruction in the region and its
relationship with the severity of the
storm and losses experienced by the
• A flash flood in a mountainous region
could be linked to the larger issue of
deforestation in catchment forests;
• A threat of extinction of a charismatic
animal species can be investigated for
its relationship with and impact on
other related species. (For an excellent
recent example between the possible
relationship between whales and
barnacles, see http://www.scienceline.
• A failed crop could be an opportunity
to explore the underlying causes
of crop failures, such as pollinators
being wiped out by pesticide use, or
pest infestation resulting from pest
predators being killed by excessive
pesticide use; (http://scholar.google.
There are more, but you get the picture. So far we’ve seen that the UN has developed partnerships with certain media groups, and when the journalists show up to the conference they are submitted to two days of media training in order to get insight. This hardly resembles how press coverage is supposed to work, at least in my mind. Perhaps I’m naive. However, it doesn’t finish there.
Educating Children / The Green Wave
From the same pdf mentioned earlier:
46. To support educational objectives of Parties, during the biennium, the Secretariat has undertaken and supported the development of educational resources for children and youth. Financial contributions from the Governments of Canada and Spain have contributed to this.
What exactly are they funding? They are supporting a program called Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). This initiative was started in 2005 with a push to have it integrated within a decade. This document deals with how biodiversity can be incorporated into the ESD. Here are some excerpts:
(b) Biodiversity (especially ecosystems) illustrates global interdependences which consideration is vital to ESD. Secondly, the success of ESD depends on the structural involvement of all relevant actors and cooperation beyond the (formal) education sector. The use of already existing internationally connected networks of knowledge, practice and research and the promotion of the biodiversity/ESD nexus in a comprehensive concept is important. It is also essential to involve all levels of government. Examples of this approach are eco-schools, the ASP network, nonformal and adult learning networks (CAE), professional training, biosphere reserves, UNESCO Chairs, UN University research areas, ICLEI et al. National policy debates and existing mechanisms should be used to link the desired learning and education goals.
(c) ESD has benefited from a reinvigorated global debate on climate change and biodiversity loss. More environmental education is required in formal and informal education, with better focus on biodiversity in a more holistic way, involving links to ethical, social, cultural and economic aspects. It is also important to raise awareness of the importance of the work of civil society in biodiversity conservation and education. In this respect, efforts are beginning to be made to link formal and information education in the ESD context. In fact, a variety of activities have been implemented at all levels – from local to international. However, some feel that the favourable momentum of the decade has not been sufficiently harnessed.
This is very clearly a push from the UN to change both formal and informal education to reflect their concerns over biodiversity and sustainability. However, their most successful campaign isn’t mentioned above. It’s called The Green Wave, and this 18 page document has nearly 3 pages devoted to it. I won’t put it all in, but I will show you some highlights:
45. The contribution of The Green Wave to implementation of the educational component of the programme of work on CEPA is considerable and will be outlined below. The scope of its mobilization and the flexible framework in which activities may be carried out make it an ideal platform upon which biodiversity can be integrated into formal, informal and non-formal contexts of learning.In the upcoming biennium, it will be important to further develop the contribution of tools such as The Green Wave.
51. The Green Wave is a global initiative to support education of children and youth on biodiversity…
52. The Green Wave campaign seeks to raise awareness and educate children and youth on the loss of biodiversity and the need for action to preserve it. Each year, a “green wave” of action takes place on the IDB. Throughout the year children and youth are encouraged to plan biodiversity-related activities through the school year. The Green Wave also supports other national, international and global tree planting initiatives such as the UNEP-led Billion Tree Campaign.
57. In 2010, children and youth were joined by dignitaries, teachers, parents, experts and supporters from Government, companies, non-governmental organizations and other organizations in celebrating The Green Wave. Thousands of students from more than 1,000 schools and groups who took part in 63 countries have uploaded pictures and stories of their activities to The Green Wave website, and several hundred more groups have participated in the celebrations.
I certainly don’t have a problem with kids planting trees, I planted quite a few for my older neighbor when I was young. But when you look at who created this program, who funds it, and what its goals are, it may make you think twice. What exactly do they teach the children when they are planting trees? When they say “the need for action to preserve it [biodiversity loss]”, what exactly are they recommending to our children? Clearly, this program is part of ESD, whose goal is to get children to grow up with sustainability on their mind. Thousands of children around the world are learning exactly what the UN wants them to learn, through something as innocuous as planting trees.
Training journalists, partnering with news agencies, and educating children in questionable material are strange roles which the United Nations is now playing. Are the members of the UN aware that this biodiversity crisis is being presented in a very controlled manner by the UN itself? Since billions are being asked for to divert this crisis, shouldn’t we take a more skeptical approach of an issue which is almost solely being presented by the UN?
The fourth and final point about the CEPA is too long to contain in this post. I’ll post it tomorrow. It is essentially the blueprint for how government portrays the biodiversity crisis to the public. It contains government surveillance, attempts to alter formal education, advice on manipulating the public, and it lays out the steps that governments are urged to take to implement their CEPA (public relations) phase by phase.