Taking part in Earth Headlines training
India is already, in percentage terms, the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world and much of India's population is climate dependent – 60% of India’s agriculture is rain dependant and almost 70% of the country is prone to drought – which means that the challenges of a changing climate can have serious ramifications on the livelihoods of millions of people.
The Earth Headlines project was conceived to improve mainstream media reporting on environmental issues.
Its starting point is the idea that the media can play a powerful role in promoting understanding and stimulating debate: reporting on environmental stories allows people to explore the issues and journalists can share positive stories of the work that is taking place to help impacted communities adapt to the consequences of climate change.
The project aim is to cut out the jargon in environmental stories that alienates readers, helping journalists to report technically complex ideas in a straightforward way. The project focuses on energy-related issues ranging from developing technologies on renewable energy to better public transport, from energy efficient appliances to green architecture and carbon neutral builds. These issues are a critical element in India's growth story and key issues in a rapidly developing urban landscape.
We set out to train a select group of journalists from across India, as well as civil society organisations (CSOs) working on environmental projects. A key aim of the project was developing a network between all those working in this area so that information can be shared quickly from CSO to media and vice versa. We have already completed training sessions in Delhi, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Pune. A final session in Bhopal is coming up in July.
Although many of the issues of sustainable development are common across urban India, we quickly discovered that each city has very specific needs.
Our Chennai journalists, for instance, who faced up to eight hours' of power cuts a day, had a lot to say about the way in which the state's energy needs were being met. Our Pune trainees delved deep into urban transport infrastructure and discussed whether their fast-growing city could benefit from schemes like Bus Rapid Transit projects.
Journalists attending the course discussed the perception that there is a conflict between sustainable development and economic development. They described the eco-friendly initiatives that also make financial sense, including the work of Tamil Nadu CSOs in educating agricultural communities in sustainable water use so that farming communities have built resilience in the face of drought, and the new green buildings around Delhi whose energy efficient design can dramatically reduce air-conditioning bills – no mean feat when summer temperatures can soar to 48° C in the capital!
When we revisited all our cities to conduct final training sessions we were heartened to discover that journalists and CSO workers who had met on the course had stayed in touch and collaborated on stories together that appeared on major TV news channels and in national dailies. Some of our more intrepid journalists managed to convince their editors to run extended features while our CSO trainees organized press conferences with aplomb.
The overall success of the training means we're about to set off on yet another round of media training on environmental issues, and we're looking forward to helping journalists report objectively and discover new stories.
Go back to BBC Media Action website