Whether it's floods, soil erosion or storm damage, the Pacific Islands are particularly susceptible to climate change. Reporting effectively on its impact was the focus of a DW Akademie workshop for regional journalists.
The Pacific Islands may be a dream destination for tourists, but that's not always true for the locals. Global warming is presenting serious challenges: sea levels are rising to the point that some islands could disappear. Salt levels in drinking water have increased in certain areas, typhoons are becoming more intense, and coral reefs are dying. Key income sources for locals such as fishing and tourism are being threatened.
Reporting effectively on these issues was the focus of a multimedia workshop organized by DW Akademie and funded by Germany's Federal Foreign Office. Thirteen journalists from eight Pacific Island states took part.
According to Kalpana Prasad of Fiji's Ministry of Information, local journalists often find it difficult to report clearly on complex issues like these. She believes further training is essential but said it is rarely offered.
"This is an important workshop, especially given the multimedia component," she said, "Here on the islands we've become more westernized, and people are increasingly on the move. They now have less time for newspapers and radio, and many are using smartphones and tablets instead."
The sea and the impact of climate change
People on the Pacific Islands have always depended on the sea but scientific studies are showing that global warming will dramatically reduce the fish stocks. The 10-day workshop looked at how changes like this will directly affect the population. Participants produced reports and posted them on the workshop blog.
In one interview they spoke with Abdul Shaheem, a fisherman from Fiji's third-largest city, Nadi. "I started fishing 15 years ago," he told participants, "but over the past five years we've had to go further out to sea to catch anything. We're now using three times as much fuel as we used to and it takes four days to get a decent haul."
For people like Adbul it's become increasingly difficult to make a living. Teikori Kabunare, a fisherman from Kiribati, agreed. "It's sad. Most of the coral around here is bleached and has died and the fish that used to live among the reefs are gone," he said.
"Interviews like these put a face on the abstract issue of climate change," says DW Akademie project manager Thorsten Karg, admitting he was shocked to see how people in the Pacific region are being affected. In Europe, he points out, global warming is being discussed in much more academic terms. "The journalists' reports that are posted on the blog can be read all over the world," he says. "This can help people in the region better understand and deal with the effects of climate change and also help people in the North better understand the difficulties and concerns of the Pacific Islanders."