Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Journalism & the environment

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, International Development by Adam Westbrook on October 15, 2009

On the weekend dozens of climate change protesters climbed onto the roof of parliament in the latest stunt to get public attention for the cause. They used ropes and ladders to scale perimeter fencing before climbing up onto the roof of Westminster Hall.

The purpose: to ask MPs to sign a climate manifesto on Monday morning.

I write about journalism and multimedia for most of the time, but because it’s Blog Action Day today, I’ve been thinking about where the two meet. And the answer, it seems, is not in many places.

Let’s think about how the mainstream media cover the issue of climate change. It is of course well documented in broadcast news, with reports every few weeks (for example, from the BBC’s David Shukman). Big newspapers like the Guardian and Times have their own ‘environment’ sections online, featuring the calls of action of Bibi Van Der Zee among others.

And of course there have been landmark cinema releases including Al Gore’s glorified powerpoint presentation, Inconvenient Truth and Franny Armstrong’s Age of Stupid.

As for new media, when I checked 63,000 climate change related websites had been bookmarked by delicious. 69,000 videos are on Youtube with the similar tags.

Are we more informed as a result?

It’s an important question because there is little argument climate change is the most significant and global threat facing us today, and tomorrow. And for the next century.

It deserves more than 90 seconds in the 6 o’clock news every few weeks, and a feature in the G2.

The mainstream media, I think, have missed a massive opportunity to really inform the public on a regular basis. It affects us all, there is an appetite for news, analysis, advice on climate change. Yet it has no regular and protected space on our TV screens, supplements or radios (with the exception of One Planet on the BBC World Service).

PlanetDoes it not deserve a regular, accessible, digestible and regular form of coverage?

I would love to see a weekly magazine show, dedicated entirely to the environment. It would have the usual magazine-format mix of the latest news, interviews with important people in the fight against global warming, reviews of the latest green cars or gadgets, and practical advice on cutting your own carbon emissions.

The closest we ever came to that last item in the UK was Newsnight’s failed Green Man experiment.

Importantly this new video-magazine would not be preachy, it would accept the realities and practicalities of modern living, but show us solutions to those problems.

Perhaps we could all become united around this weekly offering, which shows us how to work together and take small steps as individuals to limit the effects of climate change, and make those dramatic Westminster protests unnecessary.

Just a thought. I suspect though it will be for new & social media to fill the gap.

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This is a barrel

Posted in Broadcasting and Media, News and that by Adam Westbrook on October 9, 2008

Take a look at this barrel:

Imagine if you will, Mr and Mrs John D Taxpayer bent over this barrell. With their pants hoicked around their angles, getting a right old bumming from every high street bank, many local councils, and now it seems even some police forces.

In these turbulent times, the “age of Robert Peston“, what else could I be talking about, other than yours and my favourite cereal, the Credit Crunch.

Or rather, the discovery that while the times were good, and the credit was only starting to crunch (and snap and crackle and pop) banks and public bodies were willfully investing our cash in all sorts of bollocks.

Now I don’t know what it was about the Icelandic. Maybe the Chief Constable of Humberside Police really has a thing for Bjork and local councillors go crazy for Sigur Ros, but they’ve all invested a lot of cash. Our cash. And they’ve probably lost it.

This isn’t the best thing to realise the day after we all forked out £50bn for the banks.

So it’s pretty grim. But I’m not going to write about why it’s grim and all that.  Instead:covering the story today some things surprised me. First off, the lack of outrage from the public. We went out and voxed some shoppers in Grimsby today, who ranged from nonchalent to mildly peeved.

But what’s got me most cross is the behaviour of these public bodies. My job is to cover events in the Humberside area, and both North Lincolnshire Council and North East Lincolnshire Council it turned out had investments totalling £12m in Landsbanki.

North Lincolnshire offered a statement totalling a few lines, but I was told the people I needed to speak to “were in meetings all day”. Very convenient for them. North-east Lincolnshire found one spokesperson.

I caught the end of Channel 4 News today, as Jon Snow said “We’ve tried contacting every high street bank involved in the bailout, but no-one was available for interview.”

I’m sorry?!

For £50bn I expect the bosses of each high street bank to be available to skip naked through an apiary covered in maple syrup. (Ahh, the things you wish you could say to press officers).

The fact is, not only have banks been spending customers money wildly, so have the public bodies with a responsiblity to the people who pay their wages. Yet they show little or no desire to engage the people whose money they’ve spent and who are bailing them out. That’s called rude in my book.

I hope from this whole mess, at least one thing emerges: a watchdog like attitude among the general public. If we don’t watch these cretins more closely, we’ll be over that barrel again.

Accra Aid conference: “priorities need to change”

Posted in International Development by Adam Westbrook on September 7, 2008
Can we halve poverty by 2015?

Can we halve poverty by 2015?

I haven’t written about development issues for ages – but last week’s Aid Effectiveness conference in Ghana is a good place to wade briefly back in.

Held in Accra, it was designed to find ways of making aid from developed countries have more impact in the countries they’re supposed to be helping.

Three years after the Paris Conference – where 100 countries agreed to do more to sort this out – it is still a huge problem.

Countries like the UK, France, Italy and America all promised to donate more cash – but shamefully they’re not making good on their promises.

“In simple terms” says Professer Jeffrey Sachs in an interview on Hardtalk, “the limiting factor holding back our progress towards the [Millennium Developement] Goals is the richest countries coming up with the money they have promised.

“We live in an age of cynicism and resistance, but we are not asking goverments to do anything they have not already promised. Some countries are delivering on their promises made in  2005 but where are France, Germany and Italy? If these countries are lagging then by far the biggest lagger is the US where we are committing only 0.17% of our income to development assistance.”

There’s only seven years left until we’re supposed to have reaced the Millennium Development Goals. At this rate that won’t happen.

Meanwhile blogger par excellence in Accra EK Benah was at the conference in Accra last week – check out his posts here.

Resolution One: Go Green

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on February 3, 2007

Yesterday’s climate change report was a timely reminder for me of my pledge last year to go green in 2007.

I’ve gotten off to a slow start mainly because of financial reasons, but luckily I came across a website that looks like it might make things a bit easier.
CoolMove.Org is a site dedicated to providing little tips on how we can reduce our carbon footprint. From energy saving lightbulbs to frugal flushing, they’re all things that someone renting a flat like me can do.

Here are some good ones I’m going to try and implement on the asap:

Tip #10 :: Take a shorter shower

Showering accounts for about 20 percent of the water used in the home and it takes a lot of energy to heat that water. Reducing your shower time by five minutes will save you from heating 15 to 30 gallons of water each time.

Tip #18 :: Unplug your cell phone charger when you’re not using it

Even when turned off, things like microwaves, cell phone chargers and televisions use energy.

Tip #21 :: Put a recycling bin next to your trash can

This is an easy and convenient way to remember to recycle more often.

Tip #32 :: Eat Local

According to some sources, food travels an average of 1,200 miles to get to your plate, and accounts for thirty percent of the goods transported by road. Try to find locally produced food to cut down on these unnecessary emissions.

Tip #44 :: Lunchtime

Pack your lunch in tupperware containers that can be reused each day
These are all things I don’t do, through laziness more than anything else. I reckon 2007’s going to be the year that we start to take this go-green thing seriously. If you’ve got any other eco tips, pass ’em on!

Planet Earth

I’m not denying climate change, but…

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on February 2, 2007

So another big report’s been released today confirming the effect of our fossil fueled gluttony.

More than 2,500 scientists from 130 countries have gotten together to say, in one voice, we’re destroying the planet.

I’m totally behind this report, hopefully – as Channel 4 News suggested today – a final nail in the coffin of the climate change deniers. But there’s a simple fact that the media at least is getting wrong:

Climate change isn’t destroying the planet…it’s destroying our ability to live on the planet.

Let’s not forget: this planet is billions of billions of years old. Humanity is but a blip on earth’s endless graph, but a spot on its back, a scrawny pube on its left testicle.

Climate change is bad news for us human beings. But to suggest our disgusting love affair with cars, chimneys and coal is damaging this massive lump of rock is not true.

A six degree rise in temperature over by 2100 will be fatal for us lot. It’ll be a slow nasty painful death, like drowning in boiling maple syrup. For earth, it’ll be a mild passing sunstroke.

The sooner we realise our pathetically tiny scratch on the earth’s surface the better…that way we might actually stand a chance of sorting the climate mess.

 

Planet Earth

What a waster….

Posted in Uncategorized by Adam Westbrook on October 23, 2006

Right, so it’s Energy Saving Week this week, and to kick it all off, pretty depressing statistics about how us Brit’s waste energy like it’s going out of fashion.

According to a survey into five European countries, Britons waste more energy than anyone else…and it’ll pack another 43 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere by 2010.

The main culprits? TV’s left on standby, mobile phone chargers left plugged in and people leaving lights on. Yes, that’s right, 63% of us apparently leave lights on when we leave a room.

Looking at the worst wasters, I think I’m guilty of all of them…

  • My mobile charger, Mp3 charger and laptop charger are all plugged in at home right now.
  • And I think our TV’s on standby.

I’m planning on making some changes soon…I’ll keep you posted.

Old people, really.

The other shocker from the report out today (from BBC News):

The survey found 27% of those aged 65 and over felt no guilt about the energy they use and its impact on the local environment. 

Charmed. Although it does mean 70% do give a damn, despite the likelyhood most over 65s will be part of the nitrogen cycle when it all hits the fan. Worst though:

…about a quarter of 18 to 24-year-olds do feel moderately guilty about the impact their energy use has on the environment.

25%….moderately guilty. Even though it’s been the hottest summer since records began. Even though it’s mid October and you can still wear a t-shirt. I swear this inexplicable lethargy is going to be the end of us. Why is no-body shitting their pants at all this?!