LAL DEOSA RAI
There is uncontestable evidence that human induced climate change is inevitably leading the world to ecological disaster with grave human implications. With steady but sure irreversible impacts on human life and livelihood, the disaster is particularly threatening the most vulnerable developing countries of the world.The question often raised is about the role that the media are playing or can, and should play to create people’s awareness and to impel them to action about how to confront and minimize or eliminate that threat of climate change.
What type of media, and through what type of communication process and content can the problematic issues of climate change be addressed effectively? For the decision-makers at the international level, the world climate change messages are reached through the mass media and other institutional channels, and they may influence the global thinking about the local problems. But, at the ground implementation level, the role of community media is stressed on the assumption that this type of media has the appropriate structure and potentials of conduct and performance to effectively particularize issues of climate change with meaningful messages .
Because of the existence of indigenous inter-personal channels of communication, the concept of conservation of forest for fortification (van-durga), for religious purpose(devithan), and as a source of water resources (dhap) has become common to the Nepalis from generation to generation; they plant saplings on the portion of their land where they perceive danger of mud slides. or landslides (pahiro roktham), and they build embankments (bandh) to control the flow of flooding rivers or rivulets. Indigenous communication network spread the message of self-reliant private climate resilience efforts.
The significant change in this communication process is the inclusion of the concept of climate change, which is admittedly a consequence of the Industrial Revolution.
Nepal became more aware of the nature of world climate change when it was awarded The Montreal Protocol Implementers Award for the year 2007, for its contribution towards global efforts for protection of the ozone layer from depletion, and consequently from various health hazards. Very recently, the rural communities in three districts of Nepal were awarded handsomely in cash by an international climate change organization in recognition of their efforts for developing carbon sinks by way of community forests in their villages. To enable the least developed Nepal to minimize adverse effects of climate change, the Climate Change Fund has announced to provide it more than US$ 100 million, partly in grant-in-aid and partly as a long- term soft loan.
The rural communities are becoming more aware of what they are doing to ward off the effects of the global industrial cause for which they are not responsible. The localized meaning of this happenings are communicated to the developing rural community through inter-personal as well as mass media channels, which are structured as integral parts of the larger social system. We view these channels as the social structure functioning as sub-systems within the larger social systems to perform the task of making essential contribution to facilitating innovations, adaptation, empowerment and progress towards behavioural and cultural change, besides providing information about climate change events and conditions.
Mahabir Pun’s Nepal Wireless (with the Internet) Networking Project is a case in point. The threats posed by climate change vary from country to country and so also the capacity to deal with them. The status of adaptation awareness in Nepal is reflected in the development policy and programmes, and strategies for community forestry, or for building warning systems for communities living in the Himalayan flood prone areas, or for setting up a system of protection from flash floods. However, the farmers in Nepal face more challenging issues of climate change like deterioration or failure or fall in productivity of their cultivated land, livestock or aquaculture. They tend to translate climate change effects into fatalism, and are hardly able to comprehend the implications of global warming and power wrangling at the international level, like the Kyoto Protocol,or the Montreal Protocol. Given the fact that there are hundreds of community broadcasting stations in operation in Nepal, it has become a matter of public concern how effective have they been in creating community awareness about climate change adaptation through the process of participation in the national and local level planning, in production and consumption of climate change media content.
A basic level climate change message impact study of community broadcasting programmes may help to address this concern. It may reveal how the grassroots communities gain control over a) their social and economic conditions, b) their democratic participation within their communities, and c) their narratives. And, relate them to the climate change issues.