There has been a spectacular litany of doom this week on biodiversity. And well there might be. The number of land animals has halved since 1970, and habitats and ocean populations are vanishing.
It’s no coincidence that the animal that has prospered is us: The number of humans has nearly doubled since 1970 from 3.6 billion to 7.1 billion.
This deeply troubling information made for gloomy news reports.
But as I laid out the facts for Al Jazeera’s Inside Story this week, I wondered just how much grim environmental news the world can swallow. Doom-laden stats make an easy story but is anyone taking notice?
Take climate change. I hesitate to even write the dreaded words for fear of people clicking out.
We need to lighten the load. Certainly not shirk from telling the hard facts about environmental issues but always frame them in the context of what they actually mean. Make them interesting and pertinent to all our lives. Let’s understand why we should care.
There are positives to highlight: buried among the bad news this week was the fact that one of the goals of the Paris Convention on biodiversity was in serious danger of actually being met – the target of setting aside 17 percent of world’s land for parks and reserves for wildlife.
Hey hold on, that sounds like a big deal – 17 percent, that’s some kind of progress!
If it is understood to be a good thing, we might get more agitated when we learn a similar target for the oceans “is likely to be missed”.
Here’s an example of how solutions can be found where none were thought possible:
Salmon numbers have been clobbered worldwide not only because of over-fishing but because their routes to upriver spawning grounds have been blocked.
The 170m Grand Coulee dam in Washington state has since 1942 stopped adult chinook and sockeye salmon in their tracks. It was built with no provision for fish passage.
This problem has been overcome on other rivers by the “salmon cannon” – a device originally invented to transport fruit without bruising now used to “fire” fish over obstacles to their spawning grounds.
One small, encouraging example that demonstrates ingenuity can win through.
And from that to Jon Stewart at the Daily Show. If you haven’t seen his ice sheet / sea level rise demo following the climate change march in New York, here it is.
Look out for the segment featuring members of the US House of Representatives Science, Space and Technology committee. Watch that and tell me we don’t need to change the way we tell the story.
Follow Nick Clark on Twitter @NickClarkAlJaz