The discourse of sustainability has not only changed the developmental communication landscape around the world, but has presented a crisis communication dilemma and procedural chaos in the developing world. The idea of wanting to move with developed countries, act and think like them, as well as being seen as eco-specific and compliant has contributed to complex structural gaps and adaptation short-comings, that are not inclusive.
guest column: Peter Makwanya
The intellectual and sustainable-mix up is still palpable among residents, especially authorities in the developing countries. The discourse of sustainability has permeated the developing countries not as a matter of choice, but of wanting to be seen to be walking with the pack, which, in this case, are the developed countries, where green discourses, such as renewable energy, emanated from.
The bone of contention here is how citizens of developing countries can succeed in implementing sustainable development with the backdrop of alarming poverty, sub-standard dwellings, shrinking forests, famine, malnutrition and extreme energy poverty. All the above are prevailing ingredients for underdevelopment in the majority of developing countries. The very people, who are supposed to be taking a leading role in implementing sustainable development programmes, are always preoccupied with their state of affairs rather than articulating green discourses. In developing countries, green discourses are not a major priority or a pressing need.
The other major undoing is that the emerging issues of green discourses are moving at an accelerating pace without affording those on the ground enough space to manoeuvre. The green discourses (eco-friendly, green buying, smart farming, resilient issues, Sustainable Development Goals, green energy technologies, and Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM), among other development genres) are so comprehensive, suffocating and are introduced without introspection. They are being introduced on the background of medieval ablution facilities and dilapidated and downgraded infrastructure. You cannot tell somebody who runs into the bush to relieve themselves, about living green, smart farming or participating in clean energy development mechanisms. People in developing countries need to see their basic concerns addressed rather than bombarding them with meaningless exotic discourses.
As such, the bush system is the only alternative at their disposal, for them it works and it has been working. This happens in situations where clean water is rare, and the only available water is polluted and contaminated by burst sewage pipes. In this regard, it is not sustainable to situate the individuals in the context of resilience and green living.
Instead of taking strides to improve the quality of life of the marginalised local communities, governments in developing countries are busy importing exotic discourse of sustainable development without even taking efforts in simplifying it. At the end of the day, it is always a question of misdirected communication and a null-talk. These linguistic mechanisms and discourses have not done anything to improve the people’s livelihoods, let alone making sense.
The majority of people in developing countries still commit innocent crimes of surviving on natural resources or forest resources after destroying them, without any replacement.
While the relevant authorities and particular ministries condemn acts of deforestation, land degradation, soil erosion and wild life decimation, they are not doing enough to institute policies and legal instruments that bind the above stated assertions. But to the local people, that is what determines their staple requirements and their nature of living.
Most of the environmental campaigns and new farming technologies are communicated through the media and other forms of multimedia channels, as well as approaches that are beyond the reach of the local populations, which governments claim to be representing and championing their interests.
One major undoing is that governments in developing countries always use communicative bullying tactics to whip people into submission and as a result, independent thinking is quite rare if not non-existent. For that reason, these communicative and procedural gaps need to be meaningful in people’s lives and not to use the discourses to side-line and alienate them from development programmes.
Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his own capacity and can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org