Infomail Wissenschaft Nr. 8 (English Version, November 2021)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Between glossing over and hard facts – On discrepancies in the media coverage of sustainability issues
A talk with the journalists ROSWITHA M. REISINGER, CHRISTIAN BRANDSTÄTTER and DANIEL NUTZ
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Building bridges between cultures – How travel interpreters contribute to sustainable encounters
An interview with INGEBORG PINT
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On discrepancies in the media coverage of sustainability issues
What potential does media communication have to drive the Green Transformation? How do you "sell" sustainability? How political must and may a journalist be on sustainability issues? How can we ensure that serious information does not get lost in the flood of "fake news"? This is what we asked the journalists ROSWITHA M. REISINGER & CHRISTIAN BRANDSTÄTTER (managing partners of Lebensart Verlag) and DANIEL NUTZ (editor-in-chief of Österreichische Gastronomie- und Hotelzeitung (ÖGZ), Austrian Gastronomy and Hotel Newspaper).
Sustainability, if taken seriously, is complex and rather unwieldy. How can you communicate about sustainability in a meaningful and winning way without producing either glossed-over greenwashing or incomprehensible, because abstract, gibberish?
Daniel Nutz: The transformation into a sustainable economic system is in fact the greatest challenge of our time. Science and much of politics agree on this. In this context, I think it is important, especially in B2B communication, to focus on the connection between innovation and sustainability. Companies that have a sustainable business concept are in most cases also the most innovative companies, and in any case the ones that are better prepared for the challenges of the future. Because in the medium term, the framework conditions will (have to) change in the sense that unsustainable business activities will be sanctioned.
Christian Brandstätter: In terms of sustainable tourism, this means describing the sustainable offers of the region. How to get to the destination using public transport? What does the local mobility offer look like (bus, e-bikes, ...)? Which hotels are particularly environmentally friendly (eco-label, ...)? Which restaurants offer organic food and regional cuisine? What environmentally friendly leisure activities are offered? Where can I offset my flight if necessary? The reader will gradually get an idea of what is important in terms of sustainability, without the word being constantly overused or remaining theoretical.
How can the different stakeholders - travellers, tourism industry, politicians - be addressed and reached?
Christian Brandstätter: People want more climate protection. They often do not know how to contribute to climate protection, especially on holiday. Destinations should therefore communicate very well their sustainable offers and the associated contribution to climate protection. Politicians and the tourism industry must become aware of their responsibility for achieving the CO2 reduction targets. Minus 55 percent by 2030! They will have to review and further develop their entire offer in this respect if they do not want to fall behind. Climate targets define the route.
Daniel Nutz: Policymakers need to be reminded of the objectives of the Paris Agreement. Fiscal interventions and all subsidies must be in line with these goals. The media has a monitoring function in commenting on these measures. Entrepreneurs and consumers can probably be made more aware if a link to sustainability is made as often as possible in reports.
Heard is not understood, is not done ... Many media are engaged in addressing the need for sustainable products and lifestyles, while little seems to have changed so far. Which contribution to the Green Transition can media communication about sustainability make at all?
Daniel Nutz: Media content usually reflects public attitudes. Therefore, the effect of media communication should not be overestimated. What the media can do is 'agenda setting'. We show: It exists. The actual consumption of sustainable products or services depends on many socio-economic factors.
Roswitha M. Reisinger: The last few years have been marked by extreme changes: Sustainability and climate change are among the top ten megatrends of our time. Numerous natural disasters have contributed to this, and even in Austria everyone has been affected at least once – but also, media reports around the world, which have, for example, made plastic pollution on dream beaches, in rivers or in the sea visible. Social media have aroused the emotions of many people, particularly through expressive images, and have thus strengthened their will to act. This is a good thing.
But if the emotion remains, with its black-and-white thinking, no discourse can be held, or a good solution found. Emotionalism alone leads to a division of society, as is currently happening with the vaccination debate.
For a democratic discourse, quality solution-oriented media such as LEBENSART and BUSINESSART are an essential basis. Because they do not just provide a few images, but put the development into a broader context, check the facts, take up the arguments, promote the discourse and present possible solutions. This work is laborious and time-consuming. But it is extremely important and worthwhile. Because only on this basis can we have a democratic discourse on how we want to live.
Several politicians promise climate change without sacrificing comfort. This is problematic from a scientific point of view, but understandable in terms of communication psychology, because in a consumer culture, successful products have to promise "pleasure". How do you "sell" sustainability as "pleasure"?
Daniel Nutz: Lying is never a good way to drive change. In the logic of consumer society, sustainability certainly means "loss of pleasure". Therefore, my hope is rather that our consumer culture will change. Abstaining (from meat, weekend city trips, long-distance travel ...) is becoming the guiding principle of a progressive lifestyle. So far, this is only being experienced in certain circles of the "green elite", but the evolution is clearly visible. How to reach the masses? Perhaps with the following message: Don't be a dumb consumer!
Christian Brandstätter: The truth is that writing about travelmakes people want to travel - which per se does not contribute to CO2 reduction. Sustainable communication images face almost overwhelming competition from airlines, tour operators and cruise ships promising happiness through consumption. Happiness through consumption is the mantra of our consumer society. But more and more people are discovering that happiness cannot be bought, but that, after the purchase, an emptiness quickly emerges again, crying out for even greater fulfilment.
You can win these people over by telling them what sustainable travel feels like: a relaxed train journey - with a good meal in the dining car, perhaps combined with a bit of adventure at train changes - is a wonderful experience. Everyone knows the stress of being strapped into a tin can, fully concentrated, and standing in a traffic jam for hours in sweltering heat. How convenient to be able to borrow a bike or electric car at my vacation destination whenever I really need one! The key is to make people rethink their habits and whet their appetite for new experiences.
As a journalist, one should inform rather than proselytise. On the other hand, a characteristic of sustainable development is change. How political must and may a journalist be on sustainability issues in order to be professional and successful?
Roswitha M. Reisinger: Missionary work means convincing others of something I believe in. Journalism, as we practice it, is always about information and certainly not about proselytism. Because we do not write about what we believe or do not believe, we work based on scientific facts and by talking to many people. This does not mean that we do not have a clear orientation! We are in favour of a good life for all. Our values are joy of living, justice and fairness, appreciation, protection of nature and responsible use of resources, cooperation and discourse to empower all. This is how we look at the world, how we approach issues and how we report on them.
Daniel Nutz: Sustainable development is non-negotiable. Its necessity has been scientifically established. In this respect, I consider that journalists are morally obliged to support sustainable development. Those who denounce sustainability as a political project are acting outside the scientific status quo and probably want to manipulate the public with untruths.
Greenwashing, conspiracy theories, fake news that spread quickly ... There seems to be an imbalance between disinformation and serious information - especially in the social media. How do you react to this and what can you as a journalist do to "counter" it?
Daniel Nutz: Of course, the evolution of the media facilitates these methods. Perhaps never before has an untruth been so widespread as today. How does one react to this? Probably with a classic journalistic work ethic. Work in a professional way. Check, re-check, double-check, as the Austrian journalist Hugo Portisch would have said. I can well imagine that professional quality media will ultimately emerge strengthened from the current transformation in the media market.
Roswitha M. Reisinger: Greenwashing is the smallest problem. Indeed, due to the increasing reporting obligation and the expanded possibilities for discourse, it will be noticed sooner or later and will damage the company's image. It is simply not worth it in the long run.
Fake news and misinformation - this is a big challenge. Let's take Donald Trump as an example: nowadays, it seems to be possible for even high-level politicians to lie without restraint. Many people believe these lies - even if the facts clearly contradict them - and others dismiss them as just talk. But this has serious consequences, as it undermines trust in politics and institutions and thus, in the long run, democracy. Digitalisation will greatly increase the possibility of faking things - for example, with videos in which people say things they have never said. Such falsehoods are very hard to expose. Another problem is that such videos can be distributed extremely quickly around the world via social media.
These developments make quality media extremely important. If they do a good job, they will be the main source to rely on. Research will become even more sophisticated for journalists - it takes time and money. I hope this will translate into adequate funding for the press. Because quality journalism cannot be financed by private enterprise alone.
ROSWITHA M. REISINGER, Managing Partner Lebensart Verlag, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief BUSINESSART, www.businessart.at
DANIEL NUTZ, Editor-in-Chief Österreichische Gastronomie- und Hotelzeitung (Austrian Gastronomy and Hotel Newspaper); www.gast.at
How travel interpreters contribute to sustainable encounters
Tour guides and interpreters mediate between different cultures. What special responsibility do they bear as mediators between people and cultures? A conversation with the travel interpreter INGEBORG PINT.
Sustainable and fair travel does not only mean leaving the smallest possible ecological footprint, but also respectful immersion in foreign cultures and skin-deep encounters and exchanges with the local population. Language or lack of language skills can be a barrier in this respect - tour guides and interpreters help to overcome this barrier as a link between travellers and the local population. But language and speech are only one part of communication.
So, what does this mediation between cultures look like in practice? Is the spoken word sufficient to portray the various facets of a travel destination and to provide a deeper understanding of its culture and way of life? What special responsibility do tour guides have as mediators between people and cultures? Cornelia Kühhas discussed this with INGEBORG PINT.
Ingeborg Pint is a qualified French interpreter and since her retirement she has been a volunteer Africa consultant for Naturefriends International (NFI). For Naturefriends, she organises and accompanies trips that focus on personal encounters and include visits to Naturefriends' projects in the field too. These trips mainly take her to Senegal and the Gambia. In 2018, NFI launched several projects in the border region between the two countries as "Landscape of the Year", together with African Naturefriends and their partner organisations. Their aim is to stimulate and promote community-based tourism in the region.
Ingeborg, you have been accompanying Naturefriends trips in Africa for 17 years. How do you understand your role?
During these 17 years I have also accompanied trips to Morocco and Togo, but for more than ten years I have been guiding journeys exclusively to Senegal, most recently (and in connection with the project) in combination with The Gambia. I am a tour guide and interpreter. I share the leadership with Mamadou Mbodji, Deputy Secretary General of the Senegalese Naturefriends Association ASAN (Association Sénégalaise des Amis de la Nature) and Vice President of Naturefriends International (NFI). Other accompanying persons from the African Naturefriends associations will join the group from time to time.
I think this joint tour guiding makes a lot of sense, as it brings the European and the African point of view. Mamadou and I do not see ourselves as tour guides in the classical sense of the word, but as friends of the group and of the people we meet during our visits to projects, initiatives, cooperatives, village communities and schools etc. We have known many local actors for years. However, we remain "visitors", "travellers" and we are not "integrated" into the communities - we do not stay with families, but in hotels or camps that are customary in the country, and so we want to support the local economy or local initiatives.
What makes a good (travel) interpreter?
According to common definitions, an interpreter is not "only" a language mediator, but also a cultural mediator. He/she must be curious, sensitive and open. Familiarity of one's own culture goes without saying. As much knowledge as possible of the other person's culture is a basic requirement, especially for "intercultural" interpreting, for example between European and African interlocutors. As a rule, the interpreter should be neutral and not represent one of the parties. However, in language-mediating activities while travelling, especially in conversations and encounters between travellers and locals, a high degree of identification with the respective speakers is often necessary – without this, the communication of social and cultural content and the establishment of interpersonal relationships would not work.
This role as a "mediator" between cultures is also connected with a special responsibility. How do you deal with that?
Well, I try to build bridges between locals and travellers by providing information about the country and its people. But the hosts also have to learn something about their guests. It is very important to make visitors aware of appropriate and respectful behaviour towards their hosts and in certain situations, for example at festivals or religious sites, and to ‘’brief’’ them accordingly. I want to give my fellow travellers a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes and thus create more understanding for the country and the people. And in doing so, the negative aspects should not be left out, grievances or problems should also be addressed.
How do you prepare your group for the trip in advance - or then on site for the visits to villages, religious sites, etc.?
Before the trip, the fellow travellers receive initial information about the background and the specifics of the trip - under the motto: "Friends visit friends" - as well as some basic articles from newspapers, websites, excerpts from travel guides, etc. I also compile a detailed reading booklet with articles on history, culture, society, problems (agriculture, climate, ...) etc., which I distribute at the beginning of the trip. As a first point of the travel programme, I give, together with the African Naturefriends, an overview of the travel itinerary and explain the rules of conduct, such as clothing habits, photography behaviour, behaviour when entering villages ...
How do you address any faux pas your guests may make?
As my fellow travellers receive a lot of information in advance and during the trip, there are hardly any faux pas. If they are, I try to clarify them in a personal conversation. If the incident is something fundamental, I address it in the group.
Especially in Africa, many languages are spoken - and not all people you meet speak the educational and official languages of the respective travel countries. How do you deal with that?
I do not speak any of the often-numerous national languages. My working language is French, which is also the educational and official language in Senegal. In The Gambia, English is also the language of education and the official language. Up to three languages (German, English, French) are spoken within the travel groups. In Senegal there are at least six national languages spoken by larger population groups, and the situation is similar in The Gambia. Our African guides do not necessarily speak all these languages. In Senegal, Wolof is the most common language, in The Gambia Mandinka (although Wolof is usually at least understood).
For people who do not speak the official languages, it is therefore always necessary to have an African companion as a translator. He/she translates into English or French and then I continue ... It is less complicated than it sounds. And it gives travellers impressions of the speech melody and manner of speaking of people who represent a certain status or are committed to a cause. This is then expressed through particular gestures and looks.
... Language is not only spoken words, but it also includes the expression of the body, gestures, etc.
Yes, communication is based on more than just the spoken word. And that is the fascinating thing about meeting people from different cultures. Certain gestures or postures, for example, show feelings such as admiration or dismay. But we also "communicate" through our clothes, how we dress – so adherence to dress codes expresses respect just as much as eloquent speeches of praise. It is important to be aware about certain behaviours on the African side, for example that turning one's head away is not a sign of disinterest, but of respect.
What tips do you have for travellers on how to better understand their travel destination - even without a perfect knowledge of the local language?
Find out about manners and habits beforehand - and be prepared to get involved in new things. And learn a few words in the local language, it will certainly help you to get in touch with the locals. I also think it's important to communicate with people at eye level - literally: don't talk to people sitting down but sit or crouch down if possible. Planting trees together (note: Naturefriends in Senegal carry out tree planting campaigns in villages as in the framework of the NFI Climate Fund), working together in the gardens of the villagers you visit, you get insights into the lives of the locals without feeling too much like an intruder - and even if you don't have the language skills to ask deeper questions, you learn a lot by doing things together.
Singing together in schools breaks down barriers. Pictures taken with an instant camera are a good means of non-verbal communication and can be used to quickly establish contact (of course, we always ask if taking photos is desired).
Have you ever left something untranslated during your travels?
This happens occasionally, although I wouldn't say "not translated", but rather "filtered". It is often not clear where the line is between sympathy and "intrusiveness" when it comes to questions about private matters. People in Africa can be much more sensitive in this respect than we are. Even well-intentioned advice may be perceived by the other person as too heavy-handed. In some African countries, though not in Senegal, questions about politics are mostly taboo. In this case, I can tone down the questions or advice in the translation. I allow myself to do this because there is a friendly relationship between me and the travellers and the people I visit, and therefore my position as a completely neutral and literal interpreter is put into perspective.
However, I do regularly "add" background information that has not been said literally because it is obvious to the speakers, but which would seem incoherent to the travellers without it.
In any case, a great deal of empathy is necessary and given on my part and on the part of the fellow travellers during our trips due to the close contacts with the population, which is an important aspect of the sustainability of our tours.
Brochure „Watch out for human rights when travelling. The role of tour guides.” (respect_NFI, 2019)