The issue of environment is considered “hotter” than agriculture by some broadcasters. Quite naturally so: The media feeds on disasters. Environmental disasters – manmade or natural – hog the headlines and lead news items. How can agricultural reporting compete?
Media personnel without an adequate background of environmental sciences cover most of the environmental issues. Combine this with the fact that the sources are quite often environmental activists who are also not adequately equipped with the right background knowledge of environmental science, but are moved by passions and good intentions. We have a recipe for disastrously wrong information going out to the public.
Without understanding earth and atmospheric sciences, you will not be able to question experts who talk about global warming and the ozone hole. If we were to interview a politician, we would not take his word for granted, but would counter his viewpoints and opinions with hard data. But if the same politician puts on the hat of a climate expert, suddenly, we find that we are hesitant to question him because we are not adequately equipped with understanding of the context and background.
Most broadcasters would not allow producers who have no understanding about political issues to cover politics. Yet, most media organizations are willing to assign a newbie to cover environmental issues. It is assumed that to cover environmental issues, you need no understanding, only production skills - which is not necessarily true.
Environment is a wide-ranging topic. From pollution of water, air and land to timber and forest produce extraction leading to degradation of forests, to construction of dams, to extinction of species – the issues involved are quite varied. Quite often, it is also related to other developmental or economic issues. It is important that we be adept at accessing relevant and credible information at short notice, so that we are armed with enough understanding to question self-styled experts
You can search for a variety of topics and by region from the UN systemwide Earth Watch: http://earthwatch.unep.ch/. This is classified by Agenda 2122 issues.
The FAO has a water development and management unit. The focus, of course, is on water for agriculture, food security and poverty: http://www. fao.org/nr/water/.
Similarly, WHO has a focus on drinking water: http://www.who.int.topics/ water/en.
UNESCO has a water portal, too, and you could subscribe to a bimonthly newsletter to keep you updated on issues and events at http://www.unesco.org/water/.
GeoNetwork (http://www.fao.org/geonetwork/srv/en/main.home) has a lot of interactivity and provides maps, GIS data and other relevant and useful information that could be used in your reports.
You could also subscribe to Water L – which provides a Listserve http:// www.iisd.ca/email/water-L.htm to get a wider viewpoint and to keep abreast of the issues.
The World Wildlife Fund has a lot of information on wildlife, though only on a few select species. It also has quite a bit of scientific information and publications on a few select scientific disciplines at http://www.worldwildlife. org/. It has a specific focus on the earth at its site, http://www.panda.org/.
Climate is a topic that has gained popularity in recent decades. Here are some links to keep track of the new developments: http://www.ipcc.ch/
International Energy Agency: http://www.iea.org/
International Institute of Environment and Development: http://www.iied.org/
The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) is a research institute that conducts strategic policy research to support sustainable development in the Asia-Pacific region. It has developed a database of good practices, http://www.iges.or.jp/en/database/index.html, and it keeps an eye on current issues at http://enviroscope.iges.or.jp/index.php.
The Encyclopaedia of Life Support Systems (EOLSS) is a very useful site, which is thematically organized and updated quite often: http://www.eolss. net. But you will need to subscribe to access information from here.
Convention on Biological Diversity: http://www.cbd.int/default.shtml
The UN’s Special Forum on Forests: http://www.un.org/esa/forests/
The UN’s Earthwatch: http://earthwatch.unep.net/forests/index.php
The World Heritage Centre’s programmes on forests: http://whc.unesco. org/en/activities/
The Food and Agricultural Organisation’s forestry site: http://www.fao.org/ forestry/en/
The WWF forest section: http://www.panda.org/about_wwf/what_we_do/ forests/index.cfm
The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC): http://www.fsc.org/en/
Contacts in government organizations and NGOs
International organizations can provide a large amount of general information on the issue of the environment. But if you have to make an impact on your audiences, you must take up issues of local relevance. Search for the websites of the government ministry or department related to environment and study the policies and action plans. Quite often, you may find contact details of the relevant people on the sites you search.
The government sector is only one of the actors in the drama of environmental issues. There may be quite a few NGOs and activists who are concerned about these issues and they may quite often have a different take from the government on them. The diversity of views presented provides variety and the spice of programming. So, make a list of NGOs and activists and make connections. Don’t wait for the production to start before you contact them. It is better to make contact without an agenda and then go back with specific requests.
Make sure that you give voice to all strata of players in this drama – individuals, societies, NGOs, Government, Private sector, International agencies… - in your reporting. With so many different spring boards, keeping up should not pose a problem.
22. Agenda 21 relates to the UN agenda for the 21st century to achieve sustainable
development. The text of the document is available at http://www.un.org/esa/dsd/