Panel discussions in the third session of the Climate Media Labs for the Umalohokan Fellows of the Balangay Media Project looked into the challenges and opportunities in communicating climate issues in the Philippines last September 7, 2021.
The session on climate reporting in the Philippines featured Ms. Imelda Abaño, coordinator for Asia & Pacific Region for the Internews’ Earth Journalism Network, and Ms. Kristine Sabillo, climate reality leader and a former journalist. Another session on the importance of climate change communications featured Ms. Fidelis Eka Satriastanti, the Asia programs manager of Climate Tracker and Ms. Anna Oposa, co-Founder and chief mermaid of the Save Philippine Seas.
These panels were moderated by Ms. Biena Magbitang, Asia manager of Climate Tracker.
While the vulnerability of the country to disasters and its high population presents a conducive environment to shine the spotlight on climate issues, Ms. Abaño noted some challenges confronting media practitioners.
“The Philippines, being a low-lying country of more than 100 million people, is a perfect laboratory of stories to humanize the impact of climate change,” Ms. Abaño said, “Yet few journalists specialize on climate change reporting, few are also well-trained, or have resources to meet the challenge of informing the local communities and policy-makers of climate-related issues,” she added.
This was echoed by Ms. Sabillo, who used to cover climate issues aside from her assigned beats. Apart from the capacity-related challenges, Ms. Sabillo added that making the climate issue matter to people is another hurdle for communicators. “We have to make the effort to ensure our stories are understandable to the public. It’s very rewarding if you’re able to do that, because they’re really the ones who should be understanding these stories,” Ms. Sabillo said.
Providing insights to the discussion on effective climate communication, Ms. Satriastanti underscored the need to simplify concepts. “The jargons will always be there. It’s our responsibility as climate communicators and journalists to break it down for them, to make sure that we find the right, simple words to get the meaning across.”
For Ms. Oposa, having the audience in mind should guide how the issue is discussed. “How would the conversation go? What kind of language, analogies and examples would I use? By having a specific audience in mind, you’ll consider what they’re interested in and that’s how you can keep the conversation more engaging,” she said.
Ms. Oposa also shared insights on working with large corporations that are being called out for being among the top polluters. “What I’ve realized is that all of us want the same outcome. By being in the same room with some of the large companies, I realized that I’m more effective listening to them and them listening to me,” she said, adding that “If there are no NGOs or advocates helping them do the right thing, then they’re just going to create an echo chamber. By working with them, I realized I can have more impact because the resources they already have can be put into more meaningful, lasting outcomes.”
The curriculum for the Labs was developed by the Center with Climate Tracker and TheNerve as implementing partners with the collaboration of EB Impact, Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, Pumapodcast, Association of Young Environmental Journalists, and Climate Central.
ABS-CBN News, Philstar.com, Climate Reality Project Philippines, and MovePH of Rappler are media partners for the Balangay Media Project.
To know more about Climate Tracker, visit their website.