Will there be a consistent coverage of climate change in India at least post-Copenhagen?
How much money is the Indian media going to put in or mobilise for sustained climate change coverage post Copenhagen? It is a fair assumption to make that the big names that newspapers here sent to the conference will get back to covering other things. Indeed, even while the conference was on, it quickly lost out to the Telangana agitation on television which, as a medium, finds it difficult to shed its one big story approach to daily news. Will environment coverage be more consistent from now on in the media here? Will it invest in developing sub-specialisations because there are at least half a dozen of them in this business? Will our meagre number of environment writers grow?
When it comes to tackling the issue of climate change, its manifestations and its politics, neither print nor television can hold a candle to the forest of blogs on the Internet where activism and ideas converge. At a conservative estimate, there are more than 80, with different takes on the subject. The Dot Earth blog on New York Times.comhas helpfully classified the others in its blog roll under categories such as news, earth and environmental science and engineering, environment and sustainability voices, analysis and policy, free market and industry views, and so on. If there are several dimensions to the debate, you are invited to track them on the Net. Nine or 10 of these deal with environment and media alone, such as the Yale Climate Media Forum.
But the point is, in a country where the Internet will remain fringe media for some time to come, is the mainstream media planning to develop separate specialisations on its staff or in contributors in areas like energy, sustainable technologies, climate science, forestry, urban environment and so on? Both in English and in the regional languages? One way to do it would be to get into partnerships with funded academic institutions or NGOs.
Lack of specialised knowledge
India may have a lot of bloggers but those with specialised knowledge are few. On this subject there was not much of note last fortnight, neither on the mainstream media websites, nor on those of environmental NGOs. I am talking about something more than personal notes on ambling around venues at Copenhagen (HTand Mint) or the odd long post by Sunita Narain. Purposeful, sustained blogging does not come cheap. The better ones abroad tend to be supported by foundations or fellowships or university departments which pay for travel and research and the production of videos. Even when they are on mainstream media websites.
There is the Scientific Americanblog with its energy and sustainability section, and some like Discover Magazinehost multiple blogs. Mainstream media too triumphs in its environment reporting, with the BBC, Guardianand New York Timesblogs offering stories, videos , interactivity. And since this is a subject where the information can be highly variable, you also have Real Climate, which calls itself a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. “We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary.” They link to a useful set of FAQs on global warming, climate change, rising sea levels, emissions, and so on.
Interactivity is not in short supply, the Guardianclaims that its carbon calculator is “more sophisticated and more accurate than any other on the Internet” so go take a look. It helps you get a sense of your personal contribution to climate change!
The possibilities for sustained multi-dimensional coverage are infinite. Squatter City, for example, is a blog devoted to stories on jhuggi jhopri communities in countries across the globe. Resilience Science, a blog begun by a geography professor in Canada, aims to “communicate recent work by and of interest to those interested in resilience in social ecological systems”. The Oil Drum blog chronicles news and research on a range of energy sources. The City Fix blog looks at how urban transportation can be transformed. ‘Inhabit' is about green architecture. And the desmogblog is informative and fun, claiming to be devoted to “Clearing the PR Pollution that Clouds Climate Science.” And as for carbon talk, there is the Low Carbon Blog, and the Post-Carbon Economy Blog.
Climate change has given citizen and media alike a new glossary to grapple with. Despite a lot of writing on the subject, explaining how carbon credits work will remain a continuing challenge, green living is something we need to define continuously, and what for that matter will a low-carbon or post-carbon economy consist of? Then there is carbon sequestration, flex mex, a bubble, blackwater, greywater and greenhouse emissions. We are going to be communicating in a rather different language soon.
An ironic development on the environment journalism front is that The New York Timesscience writer Andy Revkin is quitting this coming week, accepting the buyout the paper has offered its editorial and newsroom staff in an effort to pare a 100 jobs. The blog world mourned his departure, with the Yale Forum on Climate Change and Media writing an entire article on his reporting. Revkin was a considerable force behind Dot Earth, which for its videos and news stories is well worth a visit.