Here are some tools, Text, and links for Environmental Journalism. Environmental writing is writing that focuses on environmental topics. It encompasses a wide range of different writing styles meant for different types of outlets and audiences. It may deal with various aspects of the environment, such as energy, technology, policy, wildlife, or trends in “green” industries. A basic intro is given by http://www.environmaentalscience.org (What is an Environmental Writer?)
Climate change may be a hot topic at the moment, but it’s also one that leaves audiences prone to burnout. How could it not be when headlines such as “Climate Change Threatens the World’s Food Supply” or “Thanks to Climate Change, Parts of the Arctic are on Fire,” report apocalyptic scenarios that seem insurmountable?
Is the media to blame? Rather than telling stories about the impacts of a changing climate that strike fear and paralysis in readers, how can we highlight ways that people around the world are responding to these problems?
Covering solutions is one answer.
Some Takeaways When Covering Climate Through a Solutions Lens
- Don’t make people look like victims or heroes. Do give them agency.
- Don’t promote silver bullets or one-size fits all solutions. There is no one solution/answer to the climate crisis.
- Don’t avoid other factors. “Natural” disasters, such as wildfires, are partly caused by drought and rising temperatures but also by development decisions, such as where and how residences are built, policies, etc.
- Look at what’s working, even if it’s not an ideal solution (See: “Migrants Face Changing Climate”). The climate crisis is new territory, so sometimes stories will be more about progress than proven solutions. What matters is that the solution is more than just a proposal and that the reporting is just as robust.
- Don’t overstate the role of climate change. Remember: Individual weather events are difficult to link to climate change.
- Distinguishing between local vs. global causes. Look at how governments monitor and plan for droughts and floods or how different water uses (to irrigate crops for the export market) can have local impacts.
- Avoid activism by focusing on an approach, not an organization, and including other views and perspectives.
- Avoid false balance. There is almost overwhelming consensus among scientists on how climate-warming trends over the last century are linked to human activity. Trying to balance that consensus with views from climate deniers or others who disagree with scientific findings risks misleading readers.
- Use data! Ground lived experiences in research and vice versa.
- Start with a local example of action and then tie that into a broader trend or issue. Is what’s happening in one place a model for somewhere else?
- And … don’t leave solutions to the end!
How To Make Climate Change Stories Compelling
- Use different angles, sources, desks, beats, editors
- Connect stories to people, places, wildlife; look at impacts on food, health, gardening, travel, money (things people care about and are familiar with)
- Use anecdotes + data, not jargon
- Use polls, investigative reports, graphics, photos, new media
- Explain probabilities, levels of confidence. Look at future projections but show how those scenarios can start to be addressed now.
- Good practices (adaptive measures) have taken on new urgency and move the conversation forward.
- Tell diverse stories. Climate change will impact different communities in different ways and there may be things similar communities can learn from one another. Show the range of people affected so it’s not just an ‘Us’ vs ‘Them’ story.
Questions to Consider
- Is the solution scalable and can it apply somewhere else? With what effect?
- What are its barriers to replication?
- What evidence is there to show that the solution is working? In what ways is it not and how do we know?
- What do researchers say? What do numbers show?
- Who are the critics and what do they say?
- What are the impacts? Has a certain scheme or technology helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions, for example?
- What are the shortcomings to this response?
- Where did this idea come from?
- What metrics matter when it comes to measuring success?
- And finally, know your audience. What are they concerned about? What do they already know? Is climate change a divisive issue and if so, how can you talk about it without alienating people?
The climate emergency may be unprecedented, but there are a few key ways in which past literature offers a valuable perspective on the present crisis. Fiction allows us to imagine possible futures, good and bad. When faced with such an urgent problem, it might seem like a waste of time to read earlier texts. But don’t be so sure. The climate emergency may be unprecedented, but there are a few key ways in which past literature offers a valuable perspective on the present crisis. Detail Reading...CLICK
Society of Environmental Journalists
The mission of the Society of Environmental Journalists is to strengthen the quality, reach and viability of journalism across all media to advance public understanding of environmental issues.
SEJ provides critical support to journalists of all media in their efforts to cover complex issues of the environment responsibly. SEJ addresses its mission and vision through effective programs designed by and for journalists who produce environmental coverage. Benefits and opportunities of programs and membership will be extended to journalists on varied beats, to students and all those who will be expanding and defining the field in years to come. CLICK for SEJ Reporter’s Toolbox.