CHENNAI: Stating that the media worldwide had largely ignored climate change, Alan Rusbridger, former editor-in-chief of The Guardian, spoke about the role of the public in combating climate change during a public lecture titled “Climate change: Has journalism failed?”, organised by The Hindu Centre for Politics and Public Policy at The Music Academy, Chennai on July 16.
In his last five months as editor, Rusbridger used social media, podcasts and graphic illustrations to launch the “Keep it in the Ground” campaign. It called on charitable trusts such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Group to divest their funds from fossil fuel companies.
The Guardian simultaneously underwent a makeover: Images of a massive oil slick dripping down Goosebumps-style down both the newspaper and their website, and had extensive coverage on climate change from all over the world including Canada, India and China. #KeepItInTheGround went viral and 5,000 supporters sent videos and wrote appeals to the charitable trusts.
Industrialists too joined in on the discussion; Ben Van Beurden, CEO, Shell, spoke extensively with Rusbridger, the conversation of which is available for free as a podcast.The Scott Trust, the group that owns The Guardian, also divested from fossil fuel companies, coming at a time where newspaper owners usually put financial interests over editorial interests.
Rusbridger also highlighted the need to make journalism more inclusive, adding that the involvement of environmental activists made the campaign innovative. His interaction with environmentalist Bill McKibben, when they shared the 2014 Right Livelihood Award (commonly known as the Alternative Nobel), led to the idea of simplifying climate change, creating greater awareness among the public.
To a question on why the campaign did not include nuclear energy, Rusbridger replied, “The main aim was clarity and simplicity with regard to climate change. If we did include other aspects, it would’ve reverted back to being like the environmental pages and the public wouldn’t have been engaged”.
Rusbridger ended the lecture with a beaming smile and said, “I retired a happy man”.
The lecture was to see Jairam Ramesh, former Union Minister of Environment and Forests head the panel discussion, who couldn’t make it due to medical reasons.