Dispatch from Laos – The Unheard Stories

350.org East Asia Coordinator, Jamie Henn, is currently in Laos,
meeting with partner organizations and new friends and allies. The
photo in this post is of the “Big Brother Mouse” mascot, read on to
find out more…

It’s often said that everyone on the planet will be impacted by
climate change in someway. Yet, in much of the world there is little
capacity to cover the impacts of climate change on local communities,
or the potential solutions to the crisis that could be hiding under
our noses.

This morning, I met with Panyasith Thammavongsa, the Assistant News
Editor of the Vientiane Times, Laos leading English language
newspaper. Panyasith is one of the few environmental journalists in
Laos and was the only journalist from his country to attend the UN
Climate Meetings in Poland, last year’s lead-up meeting to the
Copenhagen conference this December. We met the lobby of the Vientiane
Times, a few blocks off the Mekong River, a symbol itself of the
environmental challenges and opportunities here in Southeast Asia.

 

Panyasith and I discussed the importance of building capacity among
journalists to cover environmental issues, especially complicated
subjects such as climate change and the sometimes impenetrable
bureaucracy of the international negotiations process. There are some
excellent efforts happening already, such as the Climate Media
Partnership (CMP), a group that helps train journalists from
developing countries on climate issues and brings them to the UN
climate meetings.

In my discussions with Panyasith and Po Garden at the CMP, who I met a
few days ago in Chiang Mai, Thailand, it became clear that 350.org
could play an important role in helping journalists write about
climate issues in Southeast Asia. The exciting story of an
international day of action is the perfect backdrop to highlight local
sustainability efforts or the threat of climate change to different
communities in the region. On October 24, we hope to see stories in
newspapers and on TVs across Asia, profiling local communities and
local organizations in an international context.

And there is plenty of work to do in the lead-up to the October 24 day
of action. Working with efforts like the CMP, 350.org can help connect
environmental journalists here in Southeast Asia with new colleagues
around the world. Our growing network of bloggers, writers, and
professional journalists will play an essential role in educating the
public about the need for a fair treaty in Copenhagen that meets the
latest science.

It’s not just journalists that we want to get involved in telling this
story, however. Earlier today I stopped by “Big Brother Mouse,” an
organization in Laos that works to create story books in the Laos
language to improve literacy among the young. There are a very few
children’s books published in Laos each year and Big Brother Mouse
plays an important role in creating new stories for children to read,
as well as translating English classics like Dr. Seuss books. I spoke
with one of the people at Big Brother Mouse about creating a story
about protecting the environment and the 350 Global Day of Action. The
story could be used to engage students in a classroom setting and then
the teacher could get the students together to do a 350 action.

I’ll be meeting with another group of environmental journalists in
Hanoi later this week. With the world facing one of its greatest
challenges, a crisis that requires an unprecedented level of
collaboration and understanding, there was never a more important time
for storytellers, be they professional newscasters or puppeteers. If
you are a journalist yourself or have friends that are, please let
them know about 350.org and ask them to contact us.

And don’t forget, we’ll be counting on you to tell the story of your
town or city with a creative event on October 24!

 

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