Helping Ecuadorans understand mining and water issues
Rocío Muñoz was one of 20 journalists who participated in a reporting fellowship at the Rio+20 talks. Munoz is a Chilean journalist with more than eight years’ reporting experience and a particular interest in environmental issues. She covered the 2nd World Summit on Evolution in 2009 and recently interviewed Nicolas Stern, author of the well- known Stern Report, which sought to document the projected economic costs of climate change.
She currently works as an editor for the Ecuadorian multimedia broadcaster Multimedios106, one of the only media agencies covering environmental matters in Ecuador. Internews Europe interviewed her prior to her trip to Rio:
What made you start writing about environmental issues and why did you decide to specialize in this kind of reporting?
I have been interested in environmental matters since I was a child, thanks to my parents’ upbringing. Three years ago I was given the opportunity to cover the 2nd World Summit on Evolution, one of the biggest environmental events in Ecuador, taking place in the Galapagos Islands. During the summit I met a lot of important scientists and my interest for environmental reporting was born.
When did you start your journalism career?
I started my career at college working for El Periodista, a magazine focusing on research and policy matters. I also worked as a teaching assistant in journalistic writing from an early stage.
Why did you apply for the fellowship programme?
Last year I was involved in a workshop for environmental journalists held by the UN. We talked a lot about the Rio+20 Conference and I decided that I really wanted to attend it. I am curious to find out how these negotiations work in order to form my own opinion and enrich my journalistic work.
How did you convince your editor to let you go to the Rio+20 Conference and to publish your articles on environment matters after that?
Since I started working here, I have always tried to convince my editor to let me report on environmental issues. For months, I have been telling my colleagues that I wanted to go and that it would be important as Multimedios106 would be the only Ecuadorian media present to cover Rio+20.
What are the most important environmental issues in your country?
One of the main current environmental issues is mining. For the first time, there are plans to exploit copper on a large scale while, until recently, there have only been small, illegal mines, extracting mostly gold. The government has authorised these mining projects, because the oil reserves which previously provided a major income for Ecuador’s economy are now dwindling. As the area in which the copper will be extracted is in the heart of the Amazon and has an extraordinary biodiversity there are fears about its environmental impact.
Another issue is the Yasuní ITT initiative. Under this initiative the government has requested 3 billion Euros from the international community over a 13-year period to refrain from the exploitation of oil in the Yasuní National Park. This area is one of the most biodiverse spots on earth. Parts of its ground conserve microorganisms from a period when the Earth was formed. The government wants to use the contributions to build a more sustainable economy while preserving the rainforest and recognizing the rights of indigenous communities in the Yasuní.
How will your attendance at this conference help your reporting about environmental matters?
First of all, it will give me the opportunity to report directly on the attendance of Ecuador’s President. He will present a plan to make Ecuador’s economy more environmentally friendly. Details of this plan have not been released, but the government has already made steps towards an environmental reform. For instance, the government has started to provide tax incentives for the purchases of hydrogen-powered cars and increased taxes on plastic bottles. It has also been planning the construction of several hydroelectric power plants, the phasing out of subsidies for various pollutants and the implementation of a ‘Production Code’ which would provide incentives for cleaner production techniques.
Moreover, the fellowship will be a great opportunity for me to meet and have training sessions with renowned environmental journalists, scientists and experts. It will also give me a chance to share my experiences with other fellows and to witness the importance and impact these negotiations can have.
What angles will you choose for your articles?
Apart from the two main issues of Yasuní ITT and mineral exploitation, I would like to focus on mountains. Ecuador is crossed from North to South by the Andes, providing the country’s main water supply and a vital basis for its entire ecosystem. Quito is surrounded by four volcanoes pervaded with glaciers and covered by snow. Many glaciers have decreased by nearly 40% over the last 50 years which poses a serious problem for future supply of fresh water. The lack of protected areas is also an issue for biodiversity.
Banner photo: Journalists at the Rio+20 climate change talks. (credit: James Fahn/Internews)