May 2nd, 2013
In a warming world, developing countries are being hit hard by drought, storms and sea-level rise. Their efforts to develop energy resources is increasingly complicated by choices between cheap fossil fuels and more costly clean energy. With political strife and economic woes often taking precedence over environmental issues, what are environmental journalists in the developing world doing to get their messages heard?
Imelda Abano, president of Philippine Network of Environmental Journalists Inc., founded the organization with a goal of increasing environmental reporting in her country. “They call us the laboratory of natural disaster,” she said, referring to the Philippines. “You name it, we have it.” She later said, “By the time you step out of your house you can see and feel environmental impacts.” She spoke of the lack of clean water and, in rural areas, lack of electricity. “We want to be part of the solution.” She is discouraged, however, by her government’s lack of concern. Regarding media coverage, she stated that environmental coverage is not as prestigious as technology or politics. “The coverage is improving, but the improvement is very slow.”
Michael Simire, deputy Sunday editor of the Daily Independent in Nigeria, stated that there aren’t many opportunities for journalists to publish environmental stories. One of the things he did was to start a website where young environmental journalists could publish. It became a reference point for developments in Nigeria. He spoke of a range of environmental issues in his country, saying that most of his own reporting deals with the impacts of climate change and the adaptation, so people will know what to do. One example is the issue of water scarcity faced by farmers. He also spoke of the flaring of natural gas in the Niger Delta area, which has become “a major disaster area.” He said the government keeps shifting the dates for stopping the flare outs, but he’s excited that private media cover the truth.
According to Lican Liu, water director of Greenovation Hub in China, “People say Beijing is not a place for human beings to live.” He spoke of the bad air and water quality. “Drinking water is a big problem.” The reason, he said, is because of all the cars all the burning coal. With rising populations in China, Liu sees the problem only getting worse. “There are 300 million rural Chinese who cannot access clean drinking water,” he said, calling rural China “the fourth biggest country in terms of population.” They drink dirty water every day, he said, and while the air quality should be better there than in Beijing, “there are a lot of so-called environmental victims in rural China because they have no power, no resources, to fight back against pollution or the consequences of climate change.” He stated that China is a mixture of stages of “pre-modern, modern, and post-modern, so we’re facing a lot of environmental problems you have faced or are facing now.” While media is state-controlled in China, there are also market-oriented media, and environmental issues are covered on a daily. In general, environmental issues are not that sensitive. “If some big environmental accident happens,” he said, however, “the Propaganda Department will issue a restriction order for the media.”
founded Amazon Communications Network to reach out to other countries in the Amazon Basin for the purpose of discussing environmental issues of the area. Regarding environmental media coverage in Brazil, he said there is good coverage about the Amazon because the development sector is moving into that area and it’s become quite controversial. He spoke of the good coverage regarding the proposed Belo Monte Dam because of the involvement of Hollywood director James Cameron. He also spoke of the attention to the “savannization” of the Amazon as well as to historic floods on the coast of Rio. “But if you go to San Paulo, which is the hugest city in Latin America and ask them about the environment,” he said, “they will tell you about the Amazon and they don’t really care what’s going on around them. So we’re good on defending the Amazon, but not very good at getting engaged in solving the urban problems.”