This is the second blog in our digital ethnography series.
Written by Chad Rachubinski
In 1987, the Rainforest Alliance was founded with the mission of conserving biodiversity and ensuring sustainable livelihoods by transforming land use practices, business practices and consumer. Since launching a certification program for forests in the 1990s, and expanding that certification program into a labeling mark for consumer products in the 1990s, the Rainforest Alliance has emerged as a large multinational NGO (non-governmental organization) with over 300 employees today.
Although the Rainforest Alliance still continues its primary mission of certifying farming practices and agriculture products, primarily coffee, bananas and cocoa, in recent years, Rainforest Alliance has expanded in scope and now is advocating for a larger response to climate change in addition to highlighting successful projects it has been involved in at the COP21 negotiations in Paris.
In the weeks leading up to the Paris negotiations, the Rainforest Alliance has promoted their work, as well as advocated for additional responses to climate change both digitally and in person in the Climate Generations area of the COP21 venue. The theme for Rainforest Alliance’s presence in the COP 21 arena, both physically and socially has been “stories from the front lines of climate change” in which they have been highlighting the experiences with REDD+ Projects, sustainable farming practices workshops and other initiatives by sharing the stories of farmers and forest dependent people who have been affected by climate change, or are improving farming practices to be more sustainable.
Seven days prior to the start of the COP21 negotiations, Rainforest Alliance ‘handed over’ their social media accounts to photographer and environmental filmmaker James Balog, who featured daily pictures of the effects of climate change, including melting ice caps, endangered species and forest fires. This tactic primarily evoked a sense of urgency before the negotiations and was only featured on Instagram, before the larger COP 21 theme became prevalent on all of their digital channels. Since the negotiations began, Rainforest Alliance has shifted to a storytelling approach, highlighting the forest dependent farmers and other people affected by climate change. Rainforest Alliance has also highlighted this approach in the physical space in Paris with ten delegates and a booth in the Climate Generations civil society space. In addition, Rainforest Alliance has participated in a number of panel discussions, particularly highlighting local forest governance projects in Guatemala, which have, according to the Rainforest Alliance, reduced deforestation to almost zero. By focusing on the people impacted by deforestation instead of the economics involved with climate issues, Rainforest Alliance has so far directed attention to their projects and positions, as well as their vision for the future.
COP21 Paris 2015 & WCC 2016
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Dr. Kimberly R. Marion Suiseeya, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University
Dr. Laura Zanotti, Department of Anthropology, Purdue University
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