Journalism without borders: why we are deepening our Europe coverage | World news | The Guardian

In the depth of the financial and economic crisis that was causing misery across much of southern Europe, particularly in 2011, I set off on a reporting trip that contained the germ of what, nearly a decade later, would find expression in This is Europe.

A significant new commitment to deepen the Guardian’s coverage of Europe, This is Europe is a new editorial strand aiming to explore the challenges confronting the continent, that respect no national borders, and how countries are responding to them.

Europe on the Breadline, a four-country road trip in search of some of the human stories behind the impersonal data of the eurozone crisis, took me from food banks and protest marches in Lisbon to the birth of a national citizens’ movement in Málaga.




Pinterest

In Naples I met a youth worker whose projects with children in difficulty had been hammered by austerity; in Thessaloniki, a professor whose research budget had been slashed by 60% – and a young start-upper determined to succeed regardless.

That series, which led to a second one, this time confined to Greece, talking to those Greeks who were organising to help themselves, was an early attempt at the kind of transnational reporting implied in my current job title – and which This is Europe now aims to take a good deal further.

The whole idea of transnational reporting (journalisme sans frontières, anyone?) recognises that media organisations tend to report the EU from the institutions in Brussels, and from member states in isolation.

Only occasionally have we tried to make sense of issues across Europe – from the climate crisis to data security, migration to the rise of the far right, the working poor to caring for an ageing population, tax avoidance to the urban/rural divide.

It is an issue I have always been aware of, and tried to address before the paper created the role of roving Europe correspondent in 2016.

In 2013, I went back to Thessaloniki and Málaga – with a stop-off in Bologna – to talk to members of southern Europe’s “lost generation”: the 59%, 56% and 40% of under-25s who were then out of work in, respectively, Greece, Spain and in Italy.

In 2014 I made a tour of the populist, Eurosceptic and mainly far-right parties in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Finland that were looking to make major gains in the run-up to the European parliamentary elections of that year.

In 2015, we tried a different approach: for an article published on international labour day, 1 May, about workers taking over their factories, I reported from southern France and Greece, and Guardian colleagues contributed pieces from Spain and Turkey.

In similar efforts, for packages in 2018 and this year on the far-reaching impact of the rise of short-term rental platforms such as Airbnb, and overtourism in general, on Europe’s most historic cities, I wrote about Amsterdam and colleagues covered Berlin, Barcelona, Florence and Prague.




Pinterest

But all of this has really only been a taster of what we could accomplish, and, over the past three years, my time – and that of many of our correspondents – has been massively taken up by Brexit, leaving precious little bandwidth to think of much else. This is Europe aims to rectify that.

Why is it transnational reporting important? Because it is only when you start comparing and contrasting how different countries are experiencing the same challenges, and how they are addressing them, that you start to see who is doing well, who has developed best practice.

It allows you, for example, to discover that perhaps surprisingly, Finland leads the way in tackling both fake news and homelessness. That France has a hugely successful consumers’ cooperative that is beginning to ensure farmers get paid a fair price for the food they produce.

And that while it may represent a potentially existential challenge to winemakers in Bordeaux, global heating represents a startling opportunity for their colleagues – and, in the not too distant future, rivals – in Scandinavia.

This is Europe: a new Guardian series

This is Europe is a new stream of Guardian journalism that investigates the big challenges that transcend national boundaries, and seeks out the solutions that could benefit us all. These are testing times, and crises are not limited by national borders. But then neither are we.

Was this helpful?

Migration, climate, populism and contagious diseases are continent-wide problems. When we report on them through a pan-European lens, we not only understand the challenges better but can tease out solutions wherever they crop up: health in Denmark, for example, or teenage wellbeing in the Netherlands.

We’ve been talking about something similar to This is Europe for years at the Guardian, and now we’re doing it.

It’s a shame Brexit had to happen first, of course. But if we can now report Europe as Europe – as a continent rising (we hope) individually and collectively to the cross-border challenges it faces – more concretely and more informatively, that will be a small consolation.

Be part of the conversation. Sign up to the This is Europe email list to get a weekly selection of the most pressing stories and debates for Europeans – from identity to economics to the environment.

Related posts

Against the Death Cult: We Must Not Let Ruthless Ideologues Destroy the Climate and Kill Us All

person tie
Agriculture

The Niger delta is burning. The oil companies plumbing the river basin of its black gold have found an ingenious way of dealing with the natural gas they consider a waste by-product of the extraction process. Capturing the gas would be costly, inefficient – so instead, they flare it off. Across the delta, towers of flame burn day and night, some of them stretching ten storeys into the sky.

Gas flaring was officially banned in Nigeria in 1984 – but still, two million people live within four kilometres of a flare site, at risk of the cancers, neurological, reproductive and respiratory problems linked to the pollutants released into the air. The soil is hotter, and crop yields have dwindled; “You plant, and before you know it, everything is dead”. When the rains come, they are black. Oil spills spew from the pipelines of Shell and ENI, the biggest operators in the area. Shell has reported 17.5 million litres lost since 2011; Amnesty International say that’s likely a hefty underestimate. The spills have poisoned drinking water, and destroyed the livelihoods of the fishermen who once combed the delta. 

We are over the brink. People have already lost their lives to hurricanes and bush fires and flooding, to toxins and crop failures – all disasters rooted in fossil-fuel dependent extractive capitalism, bankrolled by a deregulated financial sector. People continue to lose their lives. Global temperatures soar, and a monstrous future slouches towards us from the ecocidal imaginations of the handful of humans directly invested in a doctrine of global annihilation. Now, the death drive built into the heart of our economy reveals itself in ever more undeniable terms; the skull is showing through the skin. 

Scientists at ExxonMobil confirmed the truth of climate change in the 1980s, at the very latest. Since then, Exxon and its fellow fossil fuel companies have spent decades sponsoring climate change denial and blocking efforts to legislate against apocalypse. Under their auspices, newspapers and broadcasters and politicians revelled in a vicious subterfuge disguised as pious gnosticism; asking how we can know for sure that climate change is caused by human activity. In recent years, this strategy has buckled under the weight of public outrage and scientific proof.

The science is clear: only an ambitious, rapid overhaul of the fundaments of our economy gives us hope of survival. And that hope is tantalisingly within our grasp. We have the technology, and we have the financial capacity; all that’s missing is the political will to give those solutions heft, muscle and cold hard cash.

Now, culprit companies are suddenly flouting their green credentials to shore up their position as custodians of the future. Shell Oil has made a big song and dance about its investments in green technology. Goldman Sachs has funded research into how to make cities “resilient to climate change”. These are little more than attempts to seduce and cajole worried publics and skittish investors. Still these companies hoard over-valued assets, continue ploughing resources into carbon-heavy industries, show no signs of leaving enough fossil fuels in the ground to avoid the breakdown of the climate, the potential collapse of civilisation and the extinction of life on earth. Negotiators were banned from mentioning climate change in recent UK-US trade talks. the UK government has subsidised the fossil fuel industry to the tune of 10bn in a decade, and its legislators continue to take its lobby money in return. They defend their right to starve out and flood and burn chunks of human existence – and make money doing it. 

We are being held hostage by a cabal of ruthless ideologues whose only loyalty is to a doctrine of global death. Their success thrives on silence, isolation, manipulation, denial. They are united in their opposition to reality, in their determination to hunt down or hound out real alternatives that threaten their mortal stranglehold on power. All other doctrines are heresy, and their preachers envoys of a sinister delusion. They are unique guardians of a dark and dazzling reality.

If this took place among a handful of hippies beckoning oblivion from the heat haze of a california desert we would call it is: a death cult. Instead, it is orchestrated from sumptuous glass towers, from the velvet inner chambers of parliament – so we call it business as usual. 

To these science-backed suggestions that economic alternatives are possible – even urgent, necessary, beautiful – they react with vitriol and incredulity. Saving the world may sound appealing, but it clashes intolerably with the cultish diktat: ‘There Is No Alternative”. Partisans of the Green New Deal like Alexandra Ocasio Cortez are dismissed at best as well-meaning dreamers or childish hysterics, and, at worst, nightmarish envoys of backdoor totalitarianism. Indeed, grassroots activists have been murdered for organising against big polluters. The political allegiances are clear: Defending life is foolish. Annihilation is inevitable. We have only to accept it graciously, to walk into its arms.

Rightwing politicians barter casually about the difference between a decarbonisation target of 2030, 2045, 2050, 2060 as a matter of messaging and electoral success. As though that difference were not cashed out in millions of deaths. Such differences slide off the sunny, addled mind of the cultist, for whom life and death are indistinguishable. 

A chosen few will be spared; the golden ones who walk in the light. As the asset-stripping and plundering continues apace, so the market for luxury disaster insurance packages has grown, with companies offering high-tech flood defences, private firefighters, private security to guard against mobs of looters. Theirs is a gilded world where disaster can never truly happen to them – because it never truly has. That no insurance policy in the world will provide them with breathable air or sustainable agriculture is a matter for the others, the ghosts, the un-living, those whose existence never really registered. Us.   

Broadcasters tried to haul Boris Johnson before the court of the living on Thursday night for the climate change debate, to account for Conservative policy proposals which present a 50% risk of tipping the world into irreversible, runaway climate breakdown, to account for his fossil fuel backers. He responded by threatening them with censure and legal action. Cult leaders can tolerate no scrutiny of their fragile world picture, no challenge to their power. 

We can break the stranglehold, and commit the death cultists to the bleak annals of history where they belong. It is time to choose only those who have chosen life.   

Eleanor Penny is a writer and a regular contributor to Novara Media. 

Related posts

Death Stranding Review: Tomorrow is Here | Screen Rant

person
America

Evaluating was always going to be difficult. It’s a game that has been built up for so many years, and by so many fans of a director with ambitious vision, freed from the shackles of a company that many believe restricted his creativity. It has celebrities scattered throughout its cast, an incredible ensemble soundtrack that’s being released as an album, and so much extraneous activity that it feels like a game that’s been out for a year and a half already. Superseding that, however, is the belief, partly stirred up by Hideo Kojima himself, that Death Stranding will change gaming.

Whether or not Death Stranding has effected the sort of change consumers expected it would is entirely subjective, but after playing through the game in its entirety, it feels impossible to come away with anything but the lingering sense that something in gaming’s paradigm is shifting. It is by no means a perfect game, but Death Stranding is an important one. In fact, Death Stranding is one of the most important video games released this decade. It’s a must-play that manages to leave a lasting impression, in spite of – or perhaps due to – its stumbles.

The story of Death Stranding is not ideally experienced while distracted. There’s a lot going on, and most of it doesn’t get unpacked for the player until the game is approaching its climax. Players take on the role of Sam Porter Bridges (Norman Reedus), a deliveryman who treks across a hellish, ghost-infested post-apocalyptic landscape to bring packages to the few remaining humans that have found shelter across the country. America has been shattered, the rest of the world presumably in a similar state of disarray, and humanity is barely clinging to its last vestiges of life.

BBs

That’s about as contained as the story ever gets. Things begin to unravel quickly, with the realization that the technology used by humans to combat supernatural forces – BTs, or Beached Things – involves half-dead, half-living babies called BBs that can detect their presence. From there, things get decidedly weirder, somehow: there are multiple dimensions, a new spin on the acid rain convention, and characters intimately connected to death.

Along the way, other characters make connections with Sam, from the sublimely-portrayed Deadman (Guillermo del Toro) to the mysterious Fragile (Léa Seydoux). It’s a superstar cast and it shows before other juggernauts like Mads Mikkelsen even turn up. Nearly every major character in Death Stranding resonates and settles the complex, sometimes ridiculous narrative into something that still evokes emotional responses at each turn. For a game that only gets more complicated the longer its tale gets, that’s an impressive feat.

Connection is at the heart of the story of Death Stranding, and it is the channel through which all other elements of the game travel as well. Much of the game is about bringing together a society that is divided, whether that’s on a grand scale – an entire country – or a smaller one, like families or lovers. To that end, players will often find themselves completing tasks that seem menial with the threat of extinction hanging over humanity’s head: transporting keepsakes or, in some cases, pizza, in order to bring a bit of happiness to the bleak grays of humankind’s death rattles.

This gameplay shakes out into two distinct patterns, the first of which is delivery and human connection. The travel to deliver items is never easy. Players will have to navigate rough terrain, not to mention enemies – supernatural and not – hellbent on killing Sam. Sam can’t die, though. He’s a repatriate, which means he can emerge from the world of the dead and back into the realm of the living by following “strands” that lead him back. Just because he can’t die doesn’t mean there aren’t tangible consequences, though, and the game does an excellent job of making every misstep feel important. Craters are left in the wake of failed attempts, and the world can begin to feel very grim indeed as the landscape gets torn apart with every major mistake.

director

During the journey, players will also be able to connect online to see what others have done to the landscape before them, making their journeys easier. Players can build structures across the map that help them and carry over to other players’ maps, too. For instance, building a bridge to cross a particularly strong river will let other players cross that same area when they get to it. Players can also “like” other structures or vehicles that have been left behind, building a sense of connection. It seems simple, but those likes feel good – something that the game even builds into its lore – and while playing, some usernames will make repeat appearances, making it seem as though a friendship has been forged.

And maybe it has. During our playthrough, it felt very much like was a multiplayer game despite the fact that players can’t team up in real-time. One of the early elements that can feel frustrating in Death Stranding is how often the game tasks Sam with backtracking from one hard to reach settlement to another. That serves a purpose, though. As the game’s plot unfurls and players begin to better understand the world, they can also grow to appreciate how the journey changes even though it ostensibly takes place in the same area. Sometimes, new structures are there that make travel easier, all thanks to the work of others. There’s a tangible sense of progress, as if humanity really is rebuilding in some way, and players are all connected in that effort. The community’s triumph is Sam’s triumph. It’s an intoxicating feeling.

Of course, the game is more challenging and involved than just that rebuilding effort. The world itself is trying to stop players from dragging America out of the depths of hell. The rain erodes player gear and is fatal to those who are exposed to it for too long. There are mountains, rivers, and steep terrain that must be traversed slowly, painfully, laboriously – and it’s all time-consuming. Nothing comes easy. Nor should it – Death Stranding imagines a world being built-up from something close to zero. It’s ingrained in every mechanic, too. Players will have to make sure their boots are constantly replaced, as they’ll slowly fall apart. Gear will have to be built and rebuilt with each successful delivery. Large packages will make Sam’s gait unsteady, his movements more difficult, and that will drain his stamina. These are all elements that will feel overwhelming, or unfair, or even just unfun. But with a little time, the game’s rhythm is established, and these previously frustrating elements combine into something memorable.

Guillermo del Toro

Then come the BTs. Several areas of the game are terrorized by these nearly-invisible otherworldly entities, made from the dead of our world. Early on, they will be almost infallible. Players will be able to detect them by proximity, and hold their breath to try to throw them off their location, and…that’s it. The BTs are horrors, here to remind Sam at regular intervals that no matter how optimistic things can get, no matter how high they’re riding off the “likes” of their scattershot community, the world is still doomed. The first several encounters with BTs are among some of the most tense, memorable moments in recent gaming history.

Eventually, Death Stranding begins to offer players other methods of dealing BTs as Bridges, the organization Sam works for, uncovers the mysteries of their existence. As that happens, BT segments evolve from pure horror-inspired events into a mixture of stealth, horror, and strategic action. In both instances, Death Stranding just works. It’s another journey, one that goes from ignorance and fear of the unknown to understanding – like humans discovering fire.

It’s difficult to convey how effective Death Stranding is at delivering its messages without diving too deeply into spoilers. However, the journey, for all its frustrations – the slow, plodding pace of the early game and the obtuse beginnings of its story – still serves as a worthy foundation for the excellent experience that follows. Death Stranding probably isn’t a game for everyone. There will be some who are turned off by to really get going and that’s fine. It’s not a game that’s trying to appeal to every key consumer demographic.

Head

What Death Stranding is, though, is a game that pushes the medium forward. So much of Death Stranding is memorable, from its characters to its gameplay sections to its stellar soundtrack. It genre-hops in the same way that did so successfully a few years ago. While navigating between stealth, adventure, survival, and gunfighting elements, Kojima’s latest title balances them all into something that feels new. The game is incredibly ambitious, and it is unapologetic about the design elements it feels are integral to telling its story.

Hideo Kojima promised the world that he’d be delivering a new genre, and his friends and those who had tried the game in its infancy dared to dream that Death Stranding could be revolutionary. It’s not the best game ever made, but it’s one of the best experiences in modern gaming. Death Stranding delivered on its impossible promise in a breathtaking way, and it’s a must-play for everyone who has ever held a game controller and wondered about what comes next.

Next: Death Stranding Coming To PC Summer 2020

Death Stranding will be available on November 8, 2019 for PlayStation 4 and in summer 2020 for PC. Screen Rant was provided a PS4 code for the purposes of this review.

Related posts