Date
17 August 2019
A stray polar bear is seen in the industrial city of Norilsk, Russia. Readers are becoming increasingly indifferent to environment-related news, finding such stories remote and insignificant. Photo: Reuters
A stray polar bear is seen in the industrial city of Norilsk, Russia. Readers are becoming increasingly indifferent to environment-related news, finding such stories remote and insignificant. Photo: Reuters

How to get people to care more about environment news

The Environment Bureau has kicked off a three-month public consultation on the city’s long-term decarbonization strategy.

Meanwhile, journalism scholars from Western countries are coming to a consensus that sustainability news is struggling for international media coverage and exposure on leading news platforms.

The problem is likely to persist, at least in the short run, as news coverage focuses on trade tensions and Brexit, as well as several major elections happening around in the world.

In the longer term, as videos circulating on social media become more and more graphic, audiences are bound to be indifferent to images about environmental disasters. 

Environment-related news will be increasingly treated as something less significant than major political developments.

Is there a way out? Charles Foster, visiting professor of Oxford University’s Faculty of Law who specializes in law and ethics, has raised three approaches:

1. Community journalism. Video clips of melting glaciers and starving polar bears on news websites hardly make an impact on viewers, who find such images remote and irrelevant. Foster proposes that we should start changing the situation from our community. Local news platforms should talk about the nearby pond that is drying up or how some plant or animal species disappear from a neighborhood park. This will help in making people realize that the sustainability crisis is happening right where we live.

2. Personification. Foster shares a writing technique that has earned him high reader engagement in recent years. He first looks into the everyday life of an animal, and then pictures himself as the animal. He writes vivid stories about how changes in the climate and surroundings are affecting the way “he” lives. While minimizing criticisms, Foster delves on the perplexities and challenges faced by the animals. These “animal diaries” prompt readers to reflect on the daily struggles and sufferings of the animals.

3. Write from the first-person point of view. Foster also recommends writing news articles using the first-person narrative style. The author uses “I” to address himself or herself throughout the article, while using “you” to address readers. This style resembles the “New Journalism” that emerged in the 1970s. Do check out articles about “Immersion Journalism” and “Gonzo Journalism” should you find this field fascinating.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 9

Translation by Connie Li

[Chinese version 中文版]

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RT/CG

HKEJ contributor

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