Reporting on climate change in a holistic way

The beauty of a holistic approach to global inequality is that it makes so much sense because the challenges we face nowadays shouldn’t be solved in isolation. The tricky part is that once you go down the holistic road, you’re suddenly considering everything, so where to focus?

THE GLOBAL SOUTH ISN’T THE BIGGEST POLLUTER

If there is one thing I’ve learned from working in media for sixteen years now it’s that execution is as important as analyzing and thinking. Maybe even more important. For example regarding the topic of inclusion in journalism: we can all come together and discuss the topic, think of solutions, write another report about how we can do things better. But once we really start acting upon it and start implementing changes in the way we hire people, in the way we approach topics and in investigating our own prejudices and biases, then something will change.

I’m currently coordinating a training for journalists about reporting on climate change. The program gives a ton of information about climate terminology, the politics involved with climate policies and so on and so forth. It’s truly interesting, my knowledge about the topic has increased already after one week of following the program. The participating journalists are from the small islands in the Asian Pacific, Nepal and the Maledives. Parts of our globe where climate change hits hard without the inhabitants being the biggest polluters of the planet. A journalist from Nepal was sharing about the challenge of the media in Nepal to report on the topic because a lot of Nepali citizens realize that the root of the problem lies in developed countries. And they’re right. 

“Eco-anxiety” needs to be reported on

Does it mean journalists in those countries shouldn’t report on climate change? No, I don’t think so. But the focus of their reporting could be more towards resilience and mental wellbeing. The term “eco-anxiety” is used in countries that are victims of climate change. I learned about this through the interesting newsletter Gen Dread by author and broadcaster Britt Wray. Eco-anxiety is about the fear of the changes that our planet goes through and how these changes impact us. But it’s also about the feeling of uselessness when you’re for example cleaning a beach and a month later the same amount of plastic is back. And what if your voice doesn’t get heard because you’re a Black woman from an underdeveloped country and the hot shots at a climate conference use your presence as tokenism. All the mental wellbeing challenges involved in climate change topics are related to eco-anxiety and as you can read, the different aspects of global inequality come together here: race, gender and class.

If journalism wants to report about climate change in the best possible way, the holistic view cannot be ignored if it’s about addressing the root causes of the problem. In the case of Nepal it could imply that journalists

  • first address the concerns of the people and report about those opinions.
  • Secondly, they can start an investigation into the direct changes in the country based on climate change (more flooding in the rainy season, less snow on the mountain tops) and how that impacts people who live in those areas. And instead of just reporting on the economical and social impact, it would be good to approach the topic on a mental wellbeing level too.
  • And lastly, with the knowledge journalists have about their own country they could reach out to media organizations in developed countries and start a collaboration.

Likewise, journalists in countries in the global North should do the same. The difference though is that their citizens might not be aware of the fact that they’re the biggest polluters on the planet.

  • The first responsibility of journalists is to create that awareness and show how climate change evolves along the lines of global inequality.
  • Secondly, the direct impact on the lives of people is an important aspect of reporting but here the emphasis should lie on the actions that people can take to decrease the impact.
  • And lastly, collaboration with journalists outside of the global north will help to draw a more truthful picture of the global challenges.

It would be great if the different training programs could bring journalists from across the globe together because collaboration starts when we get to know each other’s work.


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