Monday, August 19, 2013

Science Writing In India - 3 Media Coverage Of Climate Change

In the Special Focus section in Current Science, Archita Bhatta gives us a rare glimpse on the evolution of the Indian media coverage on climate change.

There is the predictable push and pull from editors with varying levels of confidence in running stories about global warming. There is the problem of making a case for a phenomenon which is expressed in terms of uncertainties and probabilities. And the Indian media obsession with big occasions like global conferences on climate change with coverage turning a tad jingoistic and self-congratulatory about India's heroic "stand" against the western big emitters.

Nearly missing according to Archita Bhatta is coverage of local stories of changing climate and its consequent impact on ecology and people's livelihoods. This lacunae makes it difficult for the public at large to make the necessary connection between global warming and their own lives.

From the article:

This again takes me back to 2011. Just back from a research on how apple orchards were shifting uphill in Himachal Pradesh because of increase in temperatures, I scanned the papers for the coverage of this in the media. None was found, except for one article in the science and environment magazine called Down to Earth. These local stories of vegetation shifts, reduction in flows in the rivers, loss of crops, drought, etc. might appear as disparate and disconnected, but there lies the failing of the Indian media: it does not grasp the complex connections between these micro-level changes with the larger global changes.

The result is that climate change reportage is viewed by the public as a ‘mere policy issue for 'intellectuals’, remote and unconnected to their lives. 

This has to change

So the situation remains the same as when I travelled across central India to report on how extreme rainfall and drought there had affected people’s lives. Farmers affected by unexpected rainfall in groundnut-growing areas of Andhra Pradesh, did not understand ‘climate change’ as the professor spoke of.

This has to change

The rapidly decreasing rainfall in Chhattisgarh did not make sense to the farmers there; connecting this to the fast burgeoning vehicular population, or the consumptive lifestyle of their middle-class urbane brethren. It is most likely they still do not understand, because we in the media have ourselves not seen the real connection and are comfortable chasing policy diatribes and quoting big politicians.

This is what has to change ..towards building a strong bench of climate change journalists who understand the complex subject and connect it to the lives of the common people, the community that will finally make the difference in climate change scenario happen.

Do read.

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