by Ricardo Grassi, Director General Citizens’ Platform
Despite the pandemic’s tragedy in South Asia, ten months back several partners came together with UNESCO’s financial support to uncover citizens’ creativity, validate innovations with the original Hypergraph Clima, and change the information game through a worldwide communication convergence and the help of a dedicated software to trace disinformation, misinformation and fake news in social.
It was the birth of the South Asia chapter of the independent, not-for-profit international information and communication initiative Citizens’ Platform on Climate Change and a Sustainable World (CP) that evidences a major concern: give visibility and impact to creative resilience and adaptation citizens’ steps in the scarcely reported Global South, promote already existing solutions and curve disinformation in each region. UNESCO’s objective is “to promote universal access to information through open and inclusive solutions and innovative use of ICTs.”
Nineteen initiatives were selected and surveyed with the Hypergraph (figure 1) in the initial phase of the pilot project in six countries -Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and multi stakeholders are becoming partners in the international Climate Change Communication Convergence.
In the past decade alone, nearly 700 million people -half of South Asia’s population- were affected by one or more climate-related disasters that caused damages worth $149.27 billion, as estimated by the World Bank in November last year.
The financial institution considered that as rising global temperatures change the monsoon and cyclone patterns in the region, the impact on economic growth will only worsen and “are expected to impact directly over 800 million people by 2050”. More than 18 million people have been pushed to migrate and nearly 63 million could be forced from their homes by 2050 as rising seas and rivers swallow villages, and drought-hit land no longer supports crops, reported ActionAid International and Climate Action Network South Asia in a report released December 2020.
Lack or excess of water related cases are the majority of the citizens’ initiatives selected under the research conducted by the Bangladeshi social enterprise Drik and de overall management of Majority World (MW), a Community Interest Company registered in the UK whose operations bureau is based in Sri Lanka.
Floating vegetable gardens, the use of organic obstacles to reduce the impact of floods, turning a raven garden into a lush green garden farm, the reactivation of an ancient cascade system to fight both drought and flood, and several water harvesting and permaculture agricultural practices plus rice intensification and an urban forest to fight fatal heat waves, among others, were studied using CP’s Hypergraph Clima, the registered tool that within the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals was co-created with Turin-based Hypercritic.
While MW specialises in high quality imagery and stories commissioned to over 350 local photographers and video makers who understand the language, the culture and the place to be covered, Drik was set up as an activist photo, provides media services that include web development, video and print productions, and exhibitions. It also set up DrikNEWS, an independent news outlet that extensively uses citizen journalism, created Pathshala, the South Asian Institute of Photography and Media Academy, that is today considered one of the best schools of photography worldwide, and Chobi Mela, the first festival of photography in Asia.
Drik undertook the multimedia coverage in Dhaka of one of the selected best practices, Sonali bag, an eco-friendly and sustainable alternative to the current polyethylene and polypropylene bags – one of the major causes of plastic pollution in the world. Biodegradable, eco-friendly, recyclable, mixed up with the soil within 3-4 months of its disposal and 1.6 times stronger than polyethylene, the bag is made from jute cellulose, a major crop in Bangladesh.
CP South Asia’s concern is to increasingly disseminate accurate reporting in the region.
When end of last year ActionAid’s Singh told the Thompson Reuters Foundation “Policy makers in the Global North and the Global South are not yet waking up to […] the scale of the problem, and how we are going to deal with (it)”, December 2020 saw Asian media coverage of climate change or global warming dip 24 percent below levels of media coverage a year earlier, reported Media and Climate Change Observatory, a Global North multi-university collaboration that surveys across 54 countries and 120 sources.
Concerned about this reality and the bad impact of disinformation, mid last year under the motto Beyond Confusion, Inspiring Action CP and UNESCO’s Communication and Information sector co-organised six webinars that led to kick off the Climate Change Communication Convergence. Catalysed by CP, the Convergence aims to become a world trustworthy point of reference and a one-stop shop with regard to climate change and sustainable development.
Through MW and Drik action, the Convergence in South Asia incorporated to the Convergence organisations and media in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, so far. Each member within the network retains its own identity and full independence. They will be empowered for the credited dissemination of accurate outputs at regional and world levels by CP International and regional platforms, be it information, opinions, editorials, documents or any other accurate output that would deepen citizens’ knowledge, access to interaction and foster creative debate.
The launch of CP South Asia was also the opportunity to test CP’s Twitter Clima, a special tool designed in partnership with Swedish company Ancored, a communication firm registered in Stockholm that combines data analysis with the power of social media. By combining cutting-edge artificial intelligence and human experience it has access to world leading communication tools to quantify, measure and design tailor-made solutions.
A study by researchers at Brown University has found that during the one-month period studied, out of 6.5 million tweets posted about climate change on Twitter, a quarter were written by bots (also called web robot, bots are computer programs that can masquerade as humans to post or send messages on social media. Bots must be set up by a human). Most were centered on denials of global warming or rejections of climate science.
Considering only those in English language, up to overall one percent disinformation and fake news tweeds on climate change and warming were traced by Twitter Clima in the six South Asia countries involved in the launching phase.
CP’s team include journalists, communicators, artists, youth activists and business managers that interact with a world network of scientists, entrepreneurs, youth activists as well as governmental and intergovernmental officials.