Commonly known as the ‘eyes and ears,’ the media is responsible for providing information and analysis on current affairs with the emphasis of keeping the public informed. Reporting on climate change issues in the Caribbean Region and by extension globally is important because the world is not static.
Climate justice is a pressing issue for many people in the Caribbean. The region is highly vulnerable to climate change, with rising sea levels, more frequent and intense hurricanes, and prolonged droughts. However, the Caribbean’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is minuscule. The situation has put the region in an unfair position of experiencing the worst impacts of climate change without having caused it.
This has led to growing calls for climate justice, which aims to address the unequal distribution of the costs and benefits of climate change mitigation and adaptation. As a journalist in the Caribbean, it is essential to report on these issues and hold those responsible for causing climate change accountable. It is also crucial to amplify the voices of those most affected and provide a platform for them to demand climate justice.
According to UNESCO, “three of the media’s traditional roles – informing audiences, acting as watchdogs, and campaigning on social issues – are especially relevant in the context of a changing climate.”
Journalists shares an integral role in highlighting many issues, being the gate keeper of information and in return allowing for a balance in awareness while being able to influence change in policies and decisions that will benefit all involved.
In this feature we hear from the ‘horse’s mouth’, the people who work tirelessly to bring news and information on current affairs across the Caribbean while keeping you in the loop of the climate and environment.
Serving Guyana in television broadcast for over 5 years, Ms. O’nielka Bacchus touched on how fundamental it is for citizens to be in touch with climate affairs hinting that “If persons do not understand the value of environmental education, then why would they appreciate it?”
According to Bacchus, “The media controls narrative, it can influence people, it can educate persons and the more information is put out there, the more people become aware of certain issues. For example, we all hear about global warming, climate change, rising sea level, but I don’t believe people truly understand how serious it will be for Guyana, when we go through these climate crises… To be honest, I don’t think there’s any level of persuasion journalists can do to make the audience or public appreciate the approaches they use to bring climate awareness to them.”
Bacchus who holds a Bachelor Degree in Environmental Studies explained that when in preparation for creating stories not everything goes smoothly or according to plan, highlighting one of the most challenging aspects to be accessing information or data from government institutions, or certain private organizations.
“This has been time and time again, a pressing issue when it comes to reporters, trying to get credible information or source to do a well-rounded story. While we can interview environmental activists presently working to raise awareness in the public about certain environmental issues, there’s only so much information that we can get from them. We still need facts and statistics from the government organizations for reference or analysis,”
So yes! Sometimes there are setbacks where crucial reporting is being prepared.
Over in Belize, writer and Journalist Mr. André Habet thinks that there must be a clear connection for persons to understand climate affairs, stating that it is “Often not legible to people that are not already involved in environmental work therefore the task of the journalist is to clarify those connections and demonstrate how enmeshed people and the environment are, especially in the case of stories on pro-capital projects that promise to boost economic well-being in exchange for environmental degradation.”
By capititalising on that link of making climate education understandable Mr. Habet believes that if “Publications and journalist both expand their sense of what a climate justice story is, that it doesn’t always have to be about a clear battle between communities and governments or corporations but about more nuanced shifts in communities that may not be perceptible in a singular moment,” then the content of issues in the environment may be able to appeal to the audience.
Ms. Elvira Hernandez, from the Dominican Republic is a journalist with over eight years of experience in digital and print media. Her stint in the media has been quite impactful as she graduated with a degree in Social Communication, in Public Relations from the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo along with a master’s degree in Digital Marketing Management and responsible international trade.
The journalist who contributed to the “Dayanara in memoriam” of the contest “Identify the worst public service and help us improve it”, conducted by the Ministry of Public Administration (MAP), 2019 believes that “It is necessary to identify the most felt needs of society, knowing who the audience is and expressing the focus or purpose of the story concisely”, when reporting on various social issues.
Ms. Hernandez added that “The importance of climate justice is essential to the critical landscape in which we live. It seeks due respect for the rights of environmental activists and redress for the most vulnerable countries for climate wrongs committed by more developed nations. It is therefore imperative to address the climate crisis by identifying those responsible for environmental degradation, and to have a regime of consequences, so that they compensate for their wrongdoing, and the way to achieve this goal is climate justice.”
Giving his account of working as journalist providing coverage on current affairs and news for over a decade, Mr. David Papannah expressed that there is a need for more reporting on climate issues, especially in Guyana and the Caribbean.
“It is not a topic that we as reporters dedicate attention to or focus on. Because like one, we’re stretched in too and it is not that traditional. Yes, there are climate reports, but it’s just not an everyday topic that we do report on. I also think what is needed is for journalists to go after reports that are a bit more technical or a bit more in depth to explain certain things. A lot of our reporting is on the grassroots level and I think that’s a level that we need to advance a bit more into our reporting.”
Having a keen interest in climate change, the environment and other social issues Mr. Papannah hopes that in the future more training for journalist in specialized areas like climate education can be administered.
“The Guyana Press Association (GPA) can play a more prominent role in providing assistance to report on climate, not just GPA alone but there are many stakeholders in Guyana that can assist us in improving that. Such as Conservation International (CI), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), even the Ministry of Natural Resources, all of these agencies can assist us through training opportunities.”
Mrs. Priscilla Misiekaba-Kia, a highly skilled freelance journalist based in Suriname has covered a wide range of topics and areas of interest. With nearly six years of experience in the field of journalism, she began her career in 2017 with Suriname’s oldest newspaper, Dagblad De West, and has since worked as a freelance journalist for two online news sites, primarily reporting on the meetings of the National Assembly in Suriname.
Ms. Misiekaba-Kia said that her experience with climate reporting is that “The unequal distribution of burdens and benefits within and between countries and social groups when it comes to climate change is not always visible. As a journalist, you need to investigate how poor communities and minorities are often disproportionately affected by environmental pollution and natural disasters. In some cases, there is also an unequal distribution of emergency aid from governments or institutions.”
Echoing the sentiments of her colleagues, Ms. Misiekaba-Kia believes that reporters, can use a variety of techniques to get the citizens on board with the climate preparedness agenda.
“I think the journalist should explain to the audience or reader that the climate crisis is urgent and requires immediate action. We should also bring a diversity of perspectives and voices to the conversation around climate change. They help give a boost to the voices of those who are most affected by climate change, including indigenous communities and marginalized groups.”
Climate Change reporting and education continues to advance the cause of creating a more sustainable environment. Moreover, the media is therefore challenged to remain steadfast in the ethical contributions made when sharing information to the public.
This story was originally published by Island Press Box, with the support of the Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Fellowship, which is a joint venture between Climate Tracker and Open Society Foundations.