Open the Floodgates: Stopping the Drowning of Climate Crisis Stories by Western Media!

Words by Niamh Malloy with image courtesy of SETA

What do spiders on coffins, the Notre Dame, and the cast of Don’t Worry Darling have in common? We seem to care about them far more than we do about our planet, or at least the media does. Modern-day media plays a huge role in shaping our views, interests, and the stories we see and hear. In a time of fake news and questionable ‘impartiality’, it has never been more important to be cautious of the world that news outlets show us. Through a continuous process of silencing, excluding, and re-directing, Western media outlets have led us to believe that climate change is an event of the future, not a horrific reality of the present. For many of us, the media we consume is free, but others pay the price of their lives.  

Pakistan, the fifth most populous country in the world, has been quite literally treading water every year due to immense flooding. Now it’s drowning and gasping for air. Since June, the most southern province in Pakistan, Sindh, has seen 464% more rain than the average over the last thirty years. More than 90% of crops in the area have been ruined and Faisal Edhi, head of Pakistan’s largest social welfare organisation, has said that the future looks bleak for those who have survived the floods with many expected to starve to death. For those who don’t lose their lives to floods or starvation, there is a heightened risk of malaria due to newly created swamps and lakes of stagnant water, sometimes reaching 100 kilometres wide, and the already weak health and education services have been damaged almost irreparably. There are anticipated economic losses of over 30 billion US dollars and at least 33 million people- half the size of the population of the United Kingdom- have been displaced. These numbers keep increasing.  

Despite the catastrophic events occurring in Pakistan, there has been virtually no press coverage, aid or compassion. The citizens of Europe opened doors and let Airbnb’s rent-free to some of the 7 million Ukrainian refugees displaced by war. Change.org recorded over 2 million signatures for a petition demanding ‘Justice for George Floyd’ less than 48 hours after it was created. When we care, we can make a difference. But to care about something, we have to know about it. Pakistan, a country responsible for less than 1% of CO2 emissions, shouldn’t be left floundering and forced to battle the effects of climate change on its own. But the media and the world’s richest countries, and biggest polluters, are letting that happen.  

It isn’t just Pakistan that has been forced to suffer in silence. Ten days after Hurricane Fiona wreaked havoc in Puerto Rico, hundreds of thousands remained without power whilst the news focused on a spider crawling on the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II instead. New Delhi saw temperatures reach new heights of 49oC but the ‘hot topic’ for the media was the conflict between Florence Pugh and Olivia Wilde, and whether or not Harry Styles actually spat on Chris Pine. Climate change is framed as a problem of the future, but it is taking lives now. It might be Pakistan, India, and Puerto Rico today, but it will be the United States, the United Kingdom and mainland Europe tomorrow. If Western media takes until then to write headlines about climate change then it will be far too late.

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