The Role of the media in Climate Change & Environmental Conservation

Project Duration : May 2012 –  January 2013

This project funded by the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Berlin seeks to enhance the capacity of vernacular and community media in interrogating and reporting issues on climate change and environmental conservation within their working regions.  The project is implemented through conducting various media clinics to unpack climate change and environmental conservation in diverse locations and how the media can better package these stories and reportage for the benefit of the community and for the ultimate positive change.  This project is further emphasized by the existence of a Climate-Change Online Media Hub used as a resource site for media.

A two day media clinic for vernacular journalists in Nairobi was told of how in one of his most significant reflective moods, Nobel laureate and former US Vice President Al Gore shared with his audience a weighty issue – how he was impressed by previous generations’ decisiveness to come up with a sewer system that would safe future generations.

This, the media clinic heard was after observing catastrophic pollution of their surroundings for a long time. There concern, the former VP went on, was not selfishly motivated by personal gains but that of protecting the future generation.

“How come that the current generation is not able to see the destruction of the atmosphere by greenhouse gases wanton destruction environment, waste dumping and act decisively now as did our past generation,” Al Gore had paused,
“And today, at this forum, and even as the Rio Janeiro Conference on Climate Change issues is going on, I declare that we must in our means think of ways to safe this world for the next generation,” said Peace Pen Communications, Executive Director, Mildred Ngesa during her key opening remarks.

She added that years after his famous reflection, audiences across the globe still hear his words echoing through forums on matters of Climate Change and Environment, the key focus for the media clinic.

Organized by Peace Pen Communications, with the support of Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, the two day workshop targeted vernacular and community media, who despite commanding a huge following, lack the basic training in Media.

“The need for the media to be a major partner in the Climate Change  and Environmental Conservation discourse is undisputed,” said Mildred, adding that the media being the medium through which information is sourced, internalized, packaged, disseminated and monitored cannot renege on its responsibility and contribution to the Climate Change and Environmental Conservation scenario.

The workshop that drew participation from more than 20 journalists mainly from the vernacular and community media was further told how they must embrace an attitude of being part of the change that they wanted  by playing a key role in playing that change.

“To be journalists worth your salt, you must attempt to demystify the myth of Climate Change into reality,” Cheri Nene, a journalist and researcher told the participants.

In a light  moment, Nene told the journalists how privileged they were, that despite the fact that none of their folks were able to attend the ongoing Rio Janeiro conference, they were actively involved through the two day media clinic on reporting Climate Change Issues.

“You too are privileged with a wide following of the 42 tribes of  Kenya whose 75%  can align themselves to a specific vernacular radio station,” said Nene, urging the journalists to take their rightful place by actively participating in creating awareness by informing and educating their followers on the impact, mitigation and adaptation processes of this pertinent topic.

In his  presentation, titled: “The Role of Social Media in Climate Change,” Kelvin Okoth of Go-Sheng, told the media clinic of how like the social media platforms, they commanded a massive following of the rural folks. “Your listeners can identify with you because they find it easy to comprehend broadcasts in their mother-tongue and can easily comprehend, articulate and therefore efficiently participate in Climate Change debates,” noted Kelvin.

Kelvin warmed the hearts of the vernacular radio journalists when he impressed on them how they can be creative by reporting on the non-sexy topic of Climate Change by introducing the first ever “Laptop” barazas in the country. The barazas would bring the vernacular and community listeners in a forum where they can hold debates and discuss issues on climate change and environment with the presenters as in the mainstream media “call in” and “live” discussions.

“But reporting on Climate Change has its challenges,” Hellen Motio, a journalist told the participants, urging them to find creative ways of “sexing up” the topic for  the stories to find approval by the editors.

She gave a cue on how the journalists must go out of their way to visit sites, share with the communities and endeavour to come up with creative ideas on “the stories” that we miss in as far as Climate Change reporting is concerned.

At the end of day one, the participants unanimously agreed to the formation of a Climate Change Media Hub hosted by Peace Pen Communications where they could share, discuss, interact and get resourceful information for their reporting.

Day two of the clinic would be spent learning how to “collect” stories from the source through a visit to Ngong Hills, water  catchment in the outskirts of Nairobi that has experienced issues relating to climate and environment.

The media clinic was the first of six media clinics designed by Peace Pen Communications. Other media clinics will be held in Kisii, Meru, and Kakamega among others. The media clinics have been possible through  the support of Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, one of the largest civic education institutions in Germany that sees itself as part of the intellectual current of democratic socialism.