Environment Etc

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If wishes were horses...

Posted on October 23, 2013 at 7:50 PM

 

I am tempted to despair as I contemplate the environment and the news media in the Caribbean.


In the last two days, I have been involved in two events — one a civil society dialogue on climate change adaptation, which I organised along with team members from Panos Caribbean — a regional communication for development (C4D) NGO — and the other, a communication roundtable involving UN agencies.


Both events reinforced the crucial role of the media in realising conservation objectives in the interest of all, as well as development goals in general and the Millennium Development Goals in particular. However, captivating the sustained — emphasis on SUSTAINED — interest of the media is a long, hard road, especially when it comes to the environment.


And perhaps this is understandable.

The environment, if only on the face of it, is not exactly sexy and we are, after all, in an era of media hyper-commercialism, conglomeration and convergence, even as precious advertising dollars fast disappear, leaving several media entities to do bloody battle for market share. And so, as it is with communication departments that are the first to go when organisations are faced with budget cuts, so it is with environmental products of a news media taxed by shrinking budgets.


But while understandable, I don't know that we can afford to accept it as fait accompli. Environmental reporting is the future as it is the present, though many of us may refuse to acknowledge that and others to recognise its potential value, not only in the way of helping to facilitate human development and survival — and survival is what we are talking about when it comes to the environment — but also as it concerns our bottomline, both within and outside of the media.


One needs only to look at climate realities to gage the truth of this.

Such realities include rising sea levels, warmer temperatures and the attendant risks to health and livelihoods, which are not going to simply fade into the wind — however much we would wish it so… You know, ‘If wishes were horses, beggars would ride’ and all that. What is required is a carefully designed product — as was the Jamaica Observer's Environment Watch — that reflects people's realities in relationship to the environment and in which considerable time and effort is invested to market in order to capture the imagination of advertisers and attract the contents of their wallets.


However, it is a leap of faith and as with any start-up, it won't get into the black right outside the blocks. Not even Bolt — a man recognised as certainly one of, if not the greatest, sprinters of all time — was able to manage that feat. It will require a little bit of patience — or rather a lot — and a great deal of effort in the way of content development and, as noted, marketing.


So yes, I am tempted to despair, but I refuse to. I cling to the hope that the time will come when the media will wake up to the reality of the value, financial and otherwise, of investing in the development of environmental reporting.


And why? Because the messages on environmental realities — many of which are currently pretty dire — are best crafted and carried by the news media — complemented, of course, by other innovative communication tools being put to work on the ground in communities to maximise impact.


Until then, entities like Panos Caribbean — a leader in the C4D field — will soldier on as we train a handful of journalists at a time in environmental reporting while facilitating networking between them and civil society entities working in the field. 


— Petre Williams-Raynor

 

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