Are you are being heard? Communicating forests and climate change

Are you are being heard? Communicating forests and climate change

Communicating effectively on forests and climate change was the focus of a groundbreaking session at the 6th Mediterranean Forest Week in Brummana, Lebanon this week.

During the workshop, international forest communication professionals offered their experiences on how to communicate forests and climate change to the general public. The session was moderated by Ingwald Gshwandtl, Chair of the Global Coordination Group, Forest Communicators Networks (FCN) and Director, Head of Forest Policy and Information, Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism, Austria.

Communicating how forests offer sustainable solutions to climate change was also central to the workshop discussion. “Forest-based industries keep re-inventing themselves on the sustainable solutions forests provide”, says Kai Lintunen, Leader of the FAO-UNECE Forest Communicators Network and Head, International Communications, Finnish Forest Association.

“In this respect, bioeconomy is on the frontline to tackle climate change. However, forests mean different things to different people. Sustainably managed forests provide us with solutions for global challenges. Communication on this issue needs to touch the hearts and minds of people. It is much more than disseminating data”, he adds.

Education and communication must go hand in hand“, explained Maria de Cristofaro, Forestry Officer, Outreach and Capacity Building, Forestry Department, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Rome. “It is important for the general public to understand the impact of climate change and that forests can be a solution”, says De Cristofaro.

“We need to acknowledge the need to introduce, integrate and use communication as a tool to raise awareness and promote good practices on forest-related issues“, explained Patricia Sfeir, Leader of the Mediterranean and Near East Forest Communicators Network (FCNMedNE) and Manager, Rural Development Programs, Seeds International, Lebanon.

Capacity training in communications

Extensive preparations to include and train forest communicators were made in the build-up to the 6th Mediterranean Forest Week. Thanks to generous support of FAO, Austria and Finland, a two-day Communication and Social Media Bootcamp, held in Beirut, hosted 21 forest communicators from 9 countries.

Under the guidance of a team of communication and social media trainers, the 21 forest communicators were given an insight on how to communicate forest issues that would be showcased during presentations at the 6th Mediterranean Forest Week.

As the presentations began, this team, under the guidance of senior members of the FCNMedNE (@FCNMedNE) assumed responsibility for gathering, showcasing and delivering information from Forest Week – to the world – through their lenses and keyboards.

During the workshop, and referring to the support of FAO, Finland and Austria, Patricia Sfeir says, “The 21 forest communicators who were trained on the communication and social media bootcamp to work together on the 6th
Mediterranean Forest Week, in Lebanon, are here because a group of very special people believe in communication”, says Sfeir.

“We use the FCNMedNE team, together with the power of social media, to take the information about the Mediterranean forests out of the room and into a wider conversation”, says Pilar Valbuena, Deputy leader of FCNMedNE and an international expert in Communications, Education and Awareness Strategies, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). “This way everyone can listen and everyone can be heard”, says Valbuena.

Bringing forests to the world

What did the forest communicators on the social media bootcamp think of their experiences, training and communication work at 6th Mediterranean Forest Network?

“Some define the word ‘globalization’ as turning the entire world into a small village. This is the pitcher that the team of FCNMedNE communicators was pouring its efforts in to, whether by tweeting, snapping photos, recording or interviewing”, says forest engineer, Rayan Abedlwahed.

“Through sustained social media and with a stream of communication, the team synchronized their efforts for the benefits of forests and the environment,” says Zena Abdel Samed, from the Lebanon Reafforestation Initiative.

“The goal of the forest communicators was to turn the chambers of the conference into that of a village town hall”, says Abedwahed. “Our target was people with an interest in discovering what is going on with the forests in this
region, all the while being cozied up at home”, he adds.

“With flair, inspiration and hard work, the dream was like having a Cedrus libani and a Cedrus atlantica, both ingrained in the earth but planted in different regions far across the Mediterranean, turn into a single stand of trees, with the whole world witnessing”, concludes Abedlwahed.