GUEST COLUMN PETER MAKWANYA
CLIMATE change communication is the mainstay of environmental sustainability. It is the integral element and pivot of strengthening and transforming the environment, so that it becomes more habitable and people friendly.
Environmental communication helps people to reconnect with nature, values, identities, safety and above all, with the entire universe.
As environmental communicators network and engage with the public, they embark on the transformative routes and procedures to sign-post the people’s needs, first and foremost while regularising their wants.
Therefore, communication is critical in establishing cohesion between the people and nature.
Communication is paramount in that it is a broad network, building blocks and provides verbal bridges of the new knowledge economy and the information society that we are currently in.
As climate change communicators design communication programmes, with the idea of providing goods and services to save the environment, it is significant in every respect that they have comprehensive knowledge of the target groups they need to engage, their needs and requirements. Communicators should also come up with the appropriate channels to transmit the information together with the reasons why they settle for those mediums.
For effective communication, integral aspects, such as the roles of education and awareness, are critical in that they provide a long term frameworks for the continuos transfer of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values, both to the young and old.
This is done through interactive engagements, dialogues and discussions about issues affecting their environments. In this regard, a wide range of communication tools and strategies are used in order to provide fluency and consistency.
These are, but not limited to the following: Publications, presentations, workshops, conferences, field visits, public events and gatherings, speeches, seminars, visuals, posters, interviews, stories, role-plays, drama or songs, among others.
For these to be successful, the main objectives or set targets of the communication efforts should be set, in order for them to gain support from the stakeholders responsible for reaching out to the target groups or audiences. As communicators coordinate strategies, they have to align these to the target audience’s needs.
By identifying all the stakeholders to be involved, this would also give the communicators the chance to identify, interact and observe the behavioural patterns of the stakeholders, in order to involve them in all the communication strategies.
This would enable the communicators to come up with relevant materials for the environmental data base, so that as they get into affected areas, although they would be having guides, they also have complete knowledge of the physical, social-cultural and economic settings in question.
As they get into the field, they may find the target audiences aware of the environmental challenges, but lacking environmental education, awareness and literacy. This normally leads into the perpetuation of environmental problems and blindness on the part of the target audiences.
For these reasons, effective communication strategies need to work on the people’s socio-cultural backgrounds, their living styles and how they value their environment. The designing and provision of effective communication strategies would enable people to acquire adequate information and knowledge about environmental impacts, challenges and prospects. This would enable the targeted groups to participate in the regeneration of the knowledge through greening and adapting to the environment.
Effective communication brings nature issues closer to the people and to the foreground. As such, interpersonal communication strategies are the bedrock of success and the firm foundation on which resilience is built. Effective communication also needs to be attractive to the target audiences through the provision of the most needed information by the target audiences.
Designed effective communication programmes should promote mutual cooperation and cohesion to all stakeholders involved in the conservation discourse. When communication is effectively transmitted, it does not only empower stakeholders, but transforms lives as well. It would be also a given for the target audiences and stakeholders alike to have the knowledge of important environmental occasions on their calendars, so that they remember them, participate and honour them.
Effective communication provides conservation communication a new impetus because of being cross-cutting, permeating interdisciplinary boundaries and sufficiently engaging. Childhood experiences in nature conservation are paramount and early training is significant. So goes the phrase, catching them young. They need to be included at the heart of sustainable development.