Connecting sustainability and journalism – countering the digital siege

Article written by Lars Tallert for World Press Freedom Day 2022

Hem/Nyheter/Connecting sustainability and journalism – countering the digital siege

I believe that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has made us all aware of the need for a transition towards environmentally, socially and economically sustainable societies. Not only for future generations but also for our own safety and freedom. And I believe that Putin’s invasion has made us even more aware of the need for independent, fact-based quality journalism that has the capability to explain how a war in Ukraine can be interconnected with global sustainability.

Would Putin at all have started this war if Western Europe, and in particular Germany, hadn’t been so dependent on his gas and oil, because we have not been fast enough in transforming our energy systems to renewable energy?

The environmental effects of the lowered production of sunflower oil are devastating – Ukraine is the biggest producer in the world. It results in many manufacturers replacing sunflower oil in their products with palm oil, decreasing our prospects of saving the remaining tropical forests in our world. And it will affect poor people’s access to cooking oil.

And as journalism is under digital siege, the giant social media companies’ platforms are used to amplify disinformation that damages climate change efforts, and at the same time drowning out quality journalism, which aims to explain these interconnections.

Spreading awareness of these correlations and making it common knowledge is indeed a true and necessary freedom revolution, if we are to expand the space for quality journalism. It is like a barricade where we, as free and independent journalists and human rights activists, should be at the top.

We need to change our mind sets – journalists, media managers, media developers, media owners, media researchers and human rights activists. Because if we don’t take sustainability into consideration in the production and publishing of journalism, there will be no democracy to defend. There may not even be a society to defend. We need to rethink now, because our time is limited.

There is scientific consensus that global warming in excess of 2 degrees is dangerous. Today we already have a global warming of 1 degree. To even speculate about 3 or 4 degrees warming makes researchers panic and talk about mass extinction of species, global famine and a lethal combination of severe heat waves and drought with the spreading of new unfamiliar pandemics and raging wars based on access to natural resources. All of this has already become part of our daily life.

We need to take this reality into consideration. Because this is the world in which we live and which we as journalists are supposed to describe and explain.

So instead of thinking of different kinds of specialised journalism in separate silos, we need a holistic and multi-dimensional journalism.

Because as societies are transforming, as climate change and other related processes drive a need for more information on sustainability, journalism must also transform to keep up to speed. If this doesn’t happen, journalism risks becoming irrelevant and superfluous, both as a business and as a practice.

Article written by Lars Tallert on 3 May 2022, World Press Freedom Day. 

Would you like to know more?

If you want to dig deeper into these questions, I invite you to participate in the launching of the Sustainable Journalism Partnership, a network for journalists, media researchers, sustainability researchers and entrepreneurs, in which we develop knowledge and practice, based on the relation between journalism and environmental, social and economic sustainability. We work in an informal and deliberative environment when developing multidimensional knowledge and approaches: in research and education, as a business and in journalistic practice.

On the 31 May, we will launch the Sustainable Journalism Partnership at a hybrid conference, online and onsite at the Linnaeus University in Sweden.

Register here: