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Covering the climate crisis from a solutions lens

By Toby Smith on April 30, 2020

Woman stood outside greenhouse in the Himalayas. GERES NGO - 2009 Ashden Award winners.

Climate Visuals has collaborated with the INKLINE and Conservation Optimism on a virtual workshop and summary report  entitled ‘Covering the Climate Crisis from a Solutions Lens’.  Hosted as part of the Solutions Journalism Network’s LEDE Fellowship; the workshop asked a diverse group of climate activists, journalists and scientists

‘How can we move away from the doom and gloom narrative and embrace a solutions lens?’

From apocalyptic headlines to photographs of forests burning down, the coverage of the climate crisis can leave audiences feeling overwhelmed and prone to burnout.’  This problem was approached collaboratively by looking at how we can facilitate greater knowledge exchange between diverse communicators to help make solutions more prevalent in the UK’s media landscape.

Eric from Repowering sat next to the solar panels on top of the Bannister House estate. Repowering London - 2016 Ashden Award winners.

When asked why climate change solutions are not more prevalent in the news, attendees identified the following points as playing a key role:

  • Challenges of covering solutions: Many solutions are systemic, have long development timelines, and often require high-level policy and/or institutional interventions.
  • Limitations of the journalism system: Good news is often considered to be ‘fluffy journalism’ and solutions journalism is not yet embedded within the system.
  • Issues of clarity: Climate scientists are working with many nuances and complexities so it is hard for them to simplify multifaceted issues into potential solutions for journalists to cover effectively.
  • Limitations of the academic system: Academics and scientists can be isolated in their research and often do not have the time, skills, resources or connections to communicate to members of the media.
  • Commercial aspects of the journalism sector: From a commercial perspective, newsrooms/marketing teams often argue that solutions stories do not proliferate as well as other types of stories.
Barry Aliman fetches water for her family in a village near Boromo, Burkina Faso.

The group then decided to focus on finding ways to mitigate the first two points (Challenges of covering solutions and Limitations of the journalism system) and identified a series of ways to address those challenges to help make solutions more prevalent in the UK’s media landscape.

Workers using new spinning wheels to make silk. Resham Sutra - 2019 Ashden Award winners.

The full report, drafted by Julia Migne (Conservation Optimism) with inputs by Josh Ettinger (University of Oxford) and Toby Smith (Climate Outreach) is available to read and download below

By Toby Smith

Toby is the Visuals and Media Programme Lead, with a strategic goal of expanding our presence, influence and impact in the visual and media sectors. He joins us with over 12 years experience as an award-winning environmental photographer who focuses on building innovative and global stories through collaboration and publication in leading editorial outlets.  

Toby graduated with a Masters in Photography from London College of Communication in 2008 after spending 2 years working across Africa utilising his bachelors degree in Zoology and Environmental Science. He is an Associate Scholar of the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute and lives near Stroud with his wife and son.

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