Lost in Translation and the Power of Social Media

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I am here back in the United States after spending six months in Turkey. I was an intern at a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) project about improving energy efficiency in industry. It is not going to be easy to write about my experiences in Turkey while sitting in my house in Rhinebeck. Similarly, it is not easy for most of the international organizations like UNDP to capture nuances in environmental policy in different countries. Every project has its own challenges, but I think communication is one common challenge for all projects. As it was discussed in our environmental economics class at Bard Center for Environmental Policy, maybe it would be easier to communicate with numbers if only we could express everything in numbers.

While preparing and editing the documents at UNDP, I realized how the culture affects the language and how it affects our attitude towards everything. Sometimes, it is impossible to translate everything from one language to the other. UNDP workers were aware that written documents usually failed to communicate ideas between UNDP and the Turkish Government. They were trying to solve this problem by holding meetings and discussing the ideas orally rather than just sending the written documents. People working at UNDP told me that they are lucky to be able to finish the projects in the projected time period because the project period is usually extended due to conflicts between stakeholders. They told me that the only way to solve the conflicts is to bring the parties together and make sure they understand each other.

Good news is that UNDP and the Turkish Government have been working together on many projects, and most of them ended successfully. Luckily, both sides are aware of the necessity of cooperation to solve problems like climate change. The project that I interned with for four months is a win-win project. Therefore, none of the parties want to give up, even if they are faced with conflicts.

I should not forget to mention the third party which is the last but not the least in this project, the industry. In my internship, I learned that the communication between the industry and the other two parties are heavily dependent on the ages of the company CEOs. As the generation of the CEOs changes, the CEOs’ attitudes towards environmental problems keep changing as well. If the CEO of the company is at my grandparents’ age, it is bad news; because they usually have no knowledge about environmental problems. Furthermore, although they know that being part of the project is going to be profitable for their companies, they are resistant to changes. If the CEO is at my parents’ age, it is good; because they are less resistant to changes. However, they are not aware of the environmental benefits of the project like the first group. The third group is the best, the CEOs at my age. They are usually happy to participate in projects like this, and they seem to know more about environmental problems. They are excited to take responsibility to help lessen environmental pollution while increasing their profits.

In our classes at Bard CEP last year, we learned about the differences between countries’ reactions to the ozone and climate change issues. In my internship, I had a chance to understand it more clearly how and why countries react in a different way to environmental problems. Their attitudes to environmental problems are affected by many different factors that are not sometimes easy to understand as an outsider.

Furthermore, another thing we learned was the role of social media on creating awareness about environmental problems. As a person who cannot use social media effectively, I realized the necessity to become active as soon as possible. I think the third-generation company owners were more concerned about environmental problems because of the power of social media. As people start being more active in social media, it becomes easy to provoke a public outcry about environmental problems. Therefore, it becomes impossible for people to ignore the threatening impacts of environmental problems like the climate change.

About Ceyda Durmaz