Communication for Sustainable Development

Media crucial in sustainable development

Development communication and the role of the media in fostering it are fast moving to the front page of sustainable development discourse. This is not surprising.
Many factors like environment, science and technology that were previously seen as exogenous in economic analysis of the development paradigm are now well integrated into it. With this development has been an increasing appreciation of the link between these factors and human livelihoods.
Accordingly, these issues can now hold their own in competition for attention in the practice of development communication and sustainable development journalism.
"In the case of science and environment, for instance, many newsrooms, especially in the developed world, have now set up special desks to deal with the subjects. And whereas the environment may not yet be a regular page-one story, the level of environmental awareness within newsrooms, even in developing countries, continues to rise," says Ochieng Ogodo,
sub-Saharan editor for online science news website SciDev.Net.
Indeed, environmental and scientific issues such as climate change that sounded like old tired threats may today not go unnoticed by an informed editor.
"Scientific information about impacts of climate change on health, ecosystems, national economies and livelihoods that once sounded like part of an apocalypse is now generally given a second chance in news judgement; as the reality that our socio-economic and political fabric is inextricably linked to the environment dawns on our national consciousness," Ogodo said.
The realities of these linkages are now quite evident and their claim to front page spaces in mass media news is following as a matter of course.
Benson Ochieng, director at Kenya’s Institute for Law and Environmental Governance (Ileg) urges: "It is easy to make the connections all across the African continent, where issues of environmental sustainability and climate change are always at the core of the perennial "unholy trinity" of food, water and energy shortages."
Many of the conflicts bedevilling the continent are also closely rooted in competition for access to and ownership of environmental goods and services, he says.
However, these developments place a heavy burden on the modern-day journalist and reporter. Firstly, the environment is a technical subject, or at least it is usually presented as such.
"The question of how environmental journalism can further the pursuit of such national, regional and international development initiatives as the national poverty eradication strategies and programmes, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad), and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) becomes pertinent in this regard," Ochieng said.
"Thirdly,the environment is hardly an event; it is a process. This calls for time and focus," he adds.


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