You may well know that one of the most important international meetings ever to occur is currently underway. The strangely named COP 18 is being held in Doha, Qatar, until this Friday. It’s the COP 18 meeting of nearly 200 countries who are tasked this year with finding and agreeing to the details of an effective replacement for the Kyoto Protocol.
Then again, you may well not know about it. Judging by one major online news source, New Zealand certainly seems to be facing a virtual media blackout on the very mention of the two week long conference. One of the nation’s leading news websites, the appropriately named “stuff.co.nz,” returns merely one single article on proceedings, and that’s for all three of the searches under the separate terms: Doha, Qatar, and Cop 18. Appearing as the fourth result of a search for the term Qatar [edit/ update: now the third, perhaps as a result of ranking improvement], but, crucially, NOT appearing under either COP 18 or even Doha, the tone of the article is quite rancid with acrimony and bitterness, virtually espousing a negativity akin to passive/aggressive ranting. Furthermore, it deals not even with the current proceedings of the meeting, but rather questions the “rights” of the host nation to hold the talks in the first place. But more on this tone of implicit vitriol later.
This overt failing of the website demands answers to a string of questions. Foremost in my mind: Why have the editors clearly deliberately avoided making up-to-date news on this conference able to be searched under the most obvious term: COP18, the name of the event itself? Even Qatar, as the name of the country, would be useful as a reference point for some people searching for current stories of this world-shaping event.
This gross negligence leads me to wonder: Why would the editors want to deliberately bury this, the one and only story referring to this, the major environmental meeting on the calendar and concerning all related issues and nations?
To be quite clear: stuff.co.nz is an aggregate news site. It supposedly presents ALL major news articles from ALL the nation’s local daily newspapers throughout the nation. Perhaps such stories have been carried in print but not put online, however, this in itself would be markedly unusual and would raise the question of why those stories have not been published online. Clearly then, there is something extraordinarily strange going on here, for which the editors of all the local daily papers would seem to have something to say which is not being said, online at the very least. Perhaps, for example, editors are venting their views and highlighting the meeting via their editorials, which are generally not included on this site.
To return to the tone of the article, it is rare to find any article on any subject which presents such a litany of examples of negativity in so many different contexts. From the title itself to the quotes, the attitudes presented are critical of the host nation in a way which belies New Zealand’s own hypocritical attitude as a developed nation, reliant on the huge amounts of methane and carbon pollution produced by the livestock industry, and our reliance on the majorly disastrous airplane to get us anywhere beyond Auckland’s beaches.
Clearly, the approach of stuff.co.nz bodes badly for the likely attitude of New Zealand’s representatives in Doha, Qatar, at the COP18 conference itself. Fortunately or not, the bad news for the rest of the world as presented by NZ’s governmental representatives is in fact the case, as is borne out by articles presented by the other news site, nzherald.co.nz. The tone of defensiveness continues even in this most recent of articles from yesterday’s news, though gratefully, the absurd vitriol has abated. Rather, as the title of another piece pointed out a day or two before, “Climate change talks may be ’embarrassing’ for NZ.” Why anyone would bother with the straw man attempt at a handshake pass with the words “may be” here is a laughable question in itself. There is no question, and the better verb form here is an emphatic: ARE. This state of affairs is in fact so offensive to the rest of the world, that even the online activist group Avaaz.com has been called to arms with this petition they are ready to present to the NZ Prime Minister.
In the 1970s New Zealand citizens repeatedly raised record amounts of money for charity on nationwide “telethon” events, and we also learned to feel good about our identity as a naive young nation by doing relatively well in such irrelevant events as the Commonwealth and the Olympic Games (on a strictly per capita basis, of course). In the 1980s we, the people, faced down the might of the US with regard the imposition of the threat of nuclear catastrophe by resisting the visits of nuclear powered and possibly nuclear weapon-equipped ships. We, the people of New Zealand, also stood against the governments of both New Zealand and South Africa, demanding introspection of our own cultures. In a dramatic string of events which saw the streets and the rugby fields covered with riot police, we asked hard questions, namely: the place of politics in sport, and the place of racism in the very structure of our daily lives. It was a time of maturing as a nation; of facing ourselves and taking on our own responsibilities as a people.
And yet in this new century where the major threat is the weather bomb of our own making, we have not enough foresight to insist, loudly and clearly, that our very own leaders stand with those low carbon footprint countries who will suffer most as a consequence of our recent luxuriously oil-soaked lifestyle.
Clearly, that website needs to be renamed immediately. The only question is which is better: stuffall,co.nz, or completelystuffed.co.nz…?
As you contemplate the answer, please go ahead and help the New Zealand government to grow up a bit, do the right thing, and change their tune: please vote in Avaaz’s petition and forward to others who might appreciate the opportunity too.