Biodiversity Media Alliance

Linking Journalism with the Web of Life

Call for greater support for media coverage of biodiversity issues

Journalists need more training and greater access to sources and information if they are to effectively tell an under-reported story that has profound implications for livelihoods, health and businesses the world over -- the silent decline in the planet’s biological resources.

So say media specialists at IUCN, IIED and Internews who will formally launch their Biodiversity Media Alliance (BMA) during the conference of parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity on 27 October in Nagoya, Japan.

"The declining status of the Earth’s natural riches threatens to undermine the future prospects of all people but so far this story has gone unreported, and outside of professional circles very few people are even aware of what is at stake," says Mike Shanahan of the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED).

The BMA partners will work together to support journalists in developing countries to report on the world’s biodiversity, what its decline means for humanity, and how it can be tackled.

"Journalists generally consider biodiversity loss to be a less urgent issue than climate change or the economy," says Alison Coleman, IUCN Regional Communications Officer. "The media needs to do a better job of explaining its importance to economies, livelihoods and people’s health. This will be critical to the achievement of the targets in the new strategic plan that 193 governments are due to adopt in Nagoya."

Already the alliance has created an online social network — http://biodiversitymedia.ning.com — where hundreds of journalists and biodiversity experts can interact. It aims to develop training activities to ensure that journalists can tell the story of biodiversity in ways that are relevant to their audiences.

"Media capacity building programs on climate change have led to a significant increase in public awareness of this issue, but so far donors have not treated biodiversity as enough of a priority," says James Fahn, executive director of Internews' Earth Journalism Network. "When supported, media coverage of biodiversity has had a direct impact on policies – such as when Vietnamese journalists helped protect Tam Dao National Park and uncovered a wildlife smuggling ring."

The UN Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD) new strategic plan, to be adopted in Nagoya, includes 20 targets to be achieved by 2020 or sooner to limit the loss of biodiversity and ensure that natural resources are used fairly and sustainably.

"Target 1 of the CBD’s new strategy states that, by 2020 at the latest, all people should be aware of the values of biodiversity and the steps they can take to conserve and use it sustainably," says Shanahan. "Journalists have a vital role to play in making sure that happens, and the Biodiversity Media Alliance aims to help them do that."

The Biodiversity Media Alliance’s press conference at COP10 in Nagoya will take place at 16.00 on 27 October in the International Conference Room (Room 3f) in Building 3.

The press conference will be webcast (http://webcast.cop10.go.jp/).

For more information, contact:
Mike Shanahan (mike.shanahan@iied.org)
James Fahn (jfahn@internews.org)
Alison Coleman (alison.coleman@iucn.org)

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Comment by Prince Charles Dickson on October 25, 2010 at 10:38
I AGREE WITH YOU SHANAHAN...YOU ARE VERY CORRECT
Comment by Juliette Jowit on October 20, 2010 at 11:58
Malaka, thanks for the thoughts. I wonder too if another possible reason for climate change siezing the agenda is that it has been marketed as a single concept, with a single measure (greenhouse gases, or even carbon for many), and a relatively simple solution (stop them, or maybe collect and bury them). All this has been woven into a simple narrative (gases trap heat, planet burns and parches, seas rise, etc), and plenty of sci-fi like catastrophe headlines and graphics, that are at once dramatic and hard to comprehend and so relatively easy to ignore.
Whatever we might think of that, for good and bad, it is an easier media and even political story. I don't know what it is like in other countries, but in the UK, where I work, it seems to be very hard for the political dialogue or media to hold on to two major stories in the same field at the same time; ie our environment debate has been taken over by climate change.
There are poor reasons for this, but also perhaps it is true, as TS Eliot wrote 'Humankind... cannot bear very much reality' (quoted by Pavan Sukhdev in new foreward to the book version of the TEEB report, pub by Earthscan. You can read his foreward on guardian website: http://bit.ly/a60TBC)
Kind regards
Juliette
Comment by Malaka Rodrigo on October 20, 2010 at 2:06
I'm thinking on why 'Climate Change' has been treated more critical than 'Biodiversity Loss'.. perhaps it is because of its direct impacts to people, as well people still doesn't understand the direct link on 'how biodiversity helps their survival indirectly'.

..and as rightly say, importance of biodiversity is mainly disccussed in professional circles and sometimes 'we' - the Environmental Journalists never get the important results of surveys done by scholars which we can use to enlighten our readers.. So BMA is indeed a timely initiative to bridge this gap and looking forward for a greater networking opportunity..!!

~malaka
www.window2nature.wordpress.com
Comment by Juliette Jowit on October 19, 2010 at 17:13
Great resource, thanks Mike. Comments on media needing to do a better job noted; so too do conservation and other experts in the field - some are great communicators, some assume too heavily that the value of their work is obvious: it might be to us, but it needs to be explained through us to the wider world and we can only report (in the case of reporters) what they explain. Also perhaps a re-think of the word biodiversity? I don't mind it at all, but many editors do.
Comment by Parvez Babul on October 19, 2010 at 4:02
Great! Thank you so much Mike and others for forming this helpful alliance. Let us work hard to fulfill the targets and reach the goals of saving lives of the poor, vulnerable people in our Bangladesh as well as of the whole world.

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