Video testimonies collected by young people in their communities around the world form the basis of a network that allows for the expression of their concerns and for a dialogue with scientists and policy makers.
Cyclones and hurricanes, desertification, flooding, coastal flooding, warming ocean waters, heat waves, declining biodiversity, increasing infectious diseases… Today, climate change and its impacts are regularly in the headlines and at the heart of many international conferences.
However, it is still rare to hear the voices of populations directly confronted with these events that disrupt their daily lives. This observation led RFI Planète Radio (France Média Monde group) and the French Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD) to launch the ePOP (Petites Ondes Participatives) project in 2017.
Disseminate widely the testimonies
ePOP, a participatory media, aims to give voice to all those directly impacted by environmental and climate change, to disseminate their testimonies very widely, to put them in dialogue with scientists, experts and decision-makers, so that the territories concerned can better engage in a social and ecological transition in response to the Sustainable Development Goals.
With ePOP, through very short films made with their smartphones, young people (15-30 years old) from the 5 continents – the “ePOPers” – become the spokespersons of their community’s feelings and questionings. In a concern for intergenerational dialogue, the floor is given especially to the elders, who have witnessed global changes for many years.
Engaging in public debate
The video testimonies collected are disseminated on social networks and in the local and international media. As part of this exchange dynamic, the regular organisation of “AfterPOP”, public events where the best videos are screened and discussed with researchers, politicians, civil society representatives, artists, citizens, etc., is an essential element of the ePOP concept. It is an opportunity to engage in a real public debate where all actors in society, including young people, participate in the reflection and exchange.
This original methodology, which places youth at the heart of the process, was initiated in the Pacific, notably in New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu and New Zealand; it is now being developed in West and Central Africa, as well as in the Indian Ocean, in Reunion and Madagascar. The network now has over 94,000 followers from 48 countries, with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar and Algeria as the top three.
Climate change and its impacts
Since 2017, more than 650 films have been produced, as many testimonies from all over the world expressing themselves in about 30 languages! Climate change and its impacts are a recurring theme, with, for example, fishermen in Benin or Senegal worrying about the increasing scarcity of fish, islanders in the Pacific deploring the erosion of the coastline due to more frequent storms or rising water levels, herders or farmers in the Sahel distraught over prolonged droughts…
On the Facebook network, the videos have more than 1,200,000 views per year at a rate of one publication per week, and the number of views is constantly increasing. They are gradually being integrated into a video library – which can be consulted on the epop network – that constitutes one of the largest databases of testimonies from citizens of the world confronted with environmental change.
Great international meetings
The growing success of ePOP allows to mobilise a diverse network of partners. These include the European Union, the Fondation de France, the Agence Française pour le Développement, the Office Français de la Biodiversité, the University of South Pacific, the Université de la Réunion, the École des Gobelins, ACTED, the WWF…
Anxious to feed the public debate, ePOP has been present at the major events of the international agenda over the last four years. In the framework of “AfterPOP”, videos were screened and ePOPers could for instance debate with experts and decision-makers during the COP 23 in Bonn (2017), the Ocean Day at the UN (New York, 2017), the 30th anniversary of the IPCC (Unesco, 2018), the international symposium Island Biology (La Réunion, 2019) or during numerous local events or Facebook Live, as a result of the pandemic. This mobilisation of the ePOP network will not weaken in the coming months, with notably a participation in the World Conservation Congress (Marseille, September 2021), in the COP24 (Glasgow, November 2021) or in the World Water Forum (Dakar, March 2022).
After 4 years of development, ePOP benefits from a worldwide representativeness and relies in its deployment on three regional antennas (Central Africa, Indian Ocean and Pacific zone) animated by young people from the ePOP community. These ePOPers accompany the productions and provide technical support to the filmmakers, in particular by organising in situ but also remote training sessions on video reporting using smartphones. The latter complement the online training offer set up by RFI Planète Radio and accessible on epop network.
The momentum of this project is supported by an annual competition that mobilises participants from all over the world, a community that is growing year on year and very active. The World Nature Congress will be the occasion to award the prizes for the 2021 edition on 6 September in the presence of personalities from the media and research world. Last but not least, the Congress participants will be able to participate in an Afterpop with young ePOPers who will present their best achievements or meet them at the ePOP stand in the Generation Nature space.
Marie-Lise Sabrié, Director of the Scientific and Technological Culture Mission, (IRD) and Max Bale, Director of the RFI Planète Radio service (France Médias Monde group) and head of the Radio France/RFI Technical Cooperation Fund.
This article was first published on the IRD website.