Close this search box.

Ten ideas for a shift in climate journalism

1 – We currently observe a period of relocalization and rediscovery of the role of places in society and especially in the climate and earth discourse. If it is Bruno Latour’s concept of „Down to Earth“, Harmut Rosa’s „resoncance theory“, the rise of nature and place writing in a couple of Western countries (i.e. Great Britain and Germany), trends such as regional food, hiking or even neo-paganism and finally a general longing for origins, nature, wilderness, sensuality and non-digital, meaningful outdoor experiences – the power and meaning of locality and explicitly localízed actions and ideas is very visible; especially due to climate change consequences that globally get much stronger in all different kinds of landscapes. We surely have to add to this list thousands of locally based grassroots initiatives which fight for a climate and human-fiendly world all around the globe.

2 – So try to localize your climate reporting as often as you can; go out, talk to „landscape people“ such as farmers, fishermen, hunters, scientists etc. Tell their stories and link them with scientific knowledge about environmental change.

3 – That’s a consequence from the second approach: Link CC reporting with society and nature as often as you can in order to make climate consequences understandable, visible, alive. To form stories, you need to be in nature (not only, also in hospitals i.e.) to see where the consequences take place. It’s similar to economical journalism that tries to be close the audience: You would often go to a supermarket and look for examples in order to explain the structures and and consequences of international trade which is much more invisible as the concrete products you can buy, see, taste and touch.

4 – Don’t talk only about „climate journalism“ since we look more and more for the local climate consequences now; so use CC as the context of your story, as the important background (backyard approach) that doesn’t have to be always named or even put in the headline („front door approach“). Let’s think about and do a „climate contextualized journalism“ or „climatized“ journalism as a new case.

5 – Link the contextualized climate journalism with ethics, and so connect it to ecological sustainability (not the popular „triangle“, where economy, ecology and society come together in such a nice and balanced way….) as the normative basis for human climate actions; sustainability is a human value such as free speech or minority rights – and so the normative framework of any kind of journalism today. So climate journalism and climatized journalism have steadily to refer to this ethical layer.

6 – It’s a consequence of the ideas above: See climate change as a dimension for any kind of social practice, as a key context for society, economy and politics nowadays. It’s a dimension and not a topic that is in competition with other topics like tax reforms, labour market laws, soccer tournaments or new movies. It’s not a topic! If you treat it as one, the key mistake is made and CC becomes much smaller and normal as it is – it becomes an ordinary topic.  

7 – Be holistic in your nature journalism with climate context; think of you readers as organic beings with a lot of different senses who like to touch, smell, feel, see and listen to nature; as a consequence, we have to broaden the climate narratives and frames once we tell climate stories – not only to link it with  technology, economy, politics and consumption, but also with psychology, cultural approaches, social initiatives (yes, we have it now with FFF), spirituality, beauty and even harm since cc cause the loss of landscapes, traditions, nature – and future. I’m writing this in Kautokeino in Sápmi, the land of the indigenous Sami in Northern Scandinavia, who teach and have their own journalism in which landscape is very important – and even more now due to all the dramatic climate change consequences in the Arctic.

8 – Creating a new future means also a lot of new options and possible freedom. That’s why a new climate journalism should be combined (not always, warning and description of a crisis will stay the key task) with constructive journalism –  not only in a sense that we report (front door approach) about solutions, ideas and success that exist in society, science, politics and economy, but in a broader way: Writing to make clear that a transformation into a climate friendly society gives a lot of new and old freedom and life quality to society since we gain back time, social contacts, health, good food, the beauty of biodiversity, the believe in our own, local potentials to act, proper air, water and soils, resilient woods and ecosystems in general – and finally justice, social participation and local democracy once the actions, we report about, are bottom-up driven and not only top down concepts.

9 – All this means, to use a lively, beautiful and even poetic language, too. In order not only to describe but make alive what happens with nature and society (and also what happens if they’re thought as one and the dominating dualism is split off). So let „nature writing“ come into journalism, minimize the frontier between literature and journalism (this goes especially to the German journalists and universities) without forgetting to foster that we could use a more poetic language and that we may tell stories with a holistic and sensitive approach to potentially transport climate information in a better, new way. Journalists will always do their stories for better information and not for the sake of the stories themselves.

10 – We were surprised by the power and courage of youth protests against the climate crisis. We were surprised since we didn’t take them for serious in future debates and underestimated their political will and dedication to the planet for a long time. Obviously, it wasn’t enough to celebrate new snap chat and instagram strategies (to spread old messages of a form of a steady growing capitalism coming to its end) as answers to their future. Let’s think and talk about their real needs and integrate them in a localized and climatized journalism in a new form.

Share on:

Related Posts

KLEINFLUSSLIEBE – mein schwarzer Gast

Das ist die Kolumne zu Natur, Zeit und Medien von Torsten Schäfer, Projektleiter bei Grüner-Journalismus, Umweltjournalist und Professor für Journalismus und Textproduktion an der Hochschule Darmstadt. In FOLGE 5 der KEINFLUSSLIEBE geht es um einen Vogel, der lange fern blieb und nun zurückgekehrt ist.

Skip to content