Role of the media in Ozone layer protection

Nkechinyere Itodo.

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The Ozone is a highly reactive molecule that contains three oxygen atoms. However, its layer comprises of the troposphere which is the first and lowest layer.

The stratosphere is the second layer as we move up into the sky and the mesosphere which is the third and highest layer. It is a belt of naturally occurring ozone gas that sits 15 to 30 kilometers above the Earth. It serves as a shield from the harmful ultraviolet radiation emitted by the sun.

Ozone depletion describes two distinct but related phenomena observed since the late 1970s: a steady decline of about 4% in the total volume of ozone in Earth’s stratosphere and a much larger springtime decrease in the stratospheric ozone around Earth’s Polar Regions.

In plain language, ozone depletion refers to the eating away or wearing out of the level of ozone in the stratosphere.

Causes and impacts

Science says that the stratospheric ozone is being destroyed by a group of manufactured chemicals, containing chlorine and/or bromine. These chemicals are called “ozone-depleting substances” (ODS) such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorcarbons (HCFCs), carbon tetrachloride and methyl chloroform.

Halons (brominated fluorocarbons) also play a large role. Halons, mostly used in specialized fire extinguishers, are the most serious ozone-depleting group of chemicals as they can destroy up to 10 times as much ozone as CFCs can.

Stratospheric ozone shields the earth from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. If this ozone becomes depleted, then more UV rays will reach the earth, and exposure to higher amounts of UV radiation could have serious impacts on human beings, animals and plants in the following ways: such as non-melanoma skin cancer.

Additionally, it plays a major role in malignant melanoma development. UV is also linked to cataracts (a disease of the eye which clouds the eye lens).

Due to the pressures of population and technology, the biophysical environment is being polluted and degraded, sometimes permanently.

Environmental pollution is the contamination of the physical and biological components of the earth/atmosphere system to such an extent that normal environmental processes are adversely affected.

In Nigeria, the most prominent pollutions are air pollution, noise pollution, water pollution and pollution arising from improper management of solid waste.

Other issues include climate change, pollution – wrong waste disposal, air pollution, and noise pollution.

Climate change refers to changes in a region’s overall weather patterns, including precipitation (that is rainfall), temperatures, cloud cover, and so on.

In the same vein, as much as people talk about serious environmental issues like climate change, not many really understand what it means and many, especially in rural areas.

However, some call it the white man’s problem while many others think it is a natural occurrence that should be given any attention because after all, this world will pass away anyway, according to Biblical injunctions.

The extent to which people respond to environmental issues depends on the extent to which they understand them. If people know and understand them, they will be able and willing to be part of the solution.

Global implications

Ozone depletion is a global problem, and it was becoming increasingly clear that an effective response would have to be international.

Between 1977 and 1985, the problem of stratospheric ozone depletion moved from the national to the international political arena.

In 1985, the Vienna Convention legitimized stratospheric ozone depletion as an international political issue and provided the framework under which the Montreal Protocol would be negotiated.

Just like in other international matters, it became obvious that the media should play a central role in mainstreaming this process.

Expected role of the media

Media is an all-compassing term that refers to a collective of communicatory mediums used to store or transmit information or data. Media is usually intended to educate or teach, inform and entertain.

Information: When disasters like flood or landslide occur, when there is a roadblock or when Nigeria ratifies a protocol, it is the role of the media to inform the public about these issues.

Education: It is also the job of the media to educate the public on why these things are happening, what is expected of them and what plans governments have on such issues. Eg. INDCs, Climate change, Floods, Landslides, pollutions etc.

It is the role of journalists to analyze environmental issues like noise pollution and put them in the right perspective so that people will understand the need for actions taken by governments to check such issues that pose a risk to the environment.

When this is achieved, citizens will sympathize with governments and lawmakers and even show the willingness to cooperate for the collective good.

For instance, the allowable average noise level for residential areas should not be above 60 decibels while that for industrial areas is 90 decibels. These issues need to be explained or analysed to the common man and woman in Nigeria. Otherwise, an attempt to correct such would be termed as victimization by an average Nigerian.

Another is gully erosions hitting most Nigerian societies today. People need to know what to do and only the media can make this happen.

Entertainment: The media is also expected to design programs that attract viewers of all class and age in an entertainment format which at the same time pass the needed information to the public.

Nigerians today watch Discovery Channels, Animal Tv and Nature Planet on cables for this purpose.

Nigeria needs to do more in environmental entertainment. Media houses in Nigeria should create more entertainment programmes focusing on the environmental challenges witnessed in the country.

Nigerian celebrities such as Omotola Ekhinde, Genevieve Nnaji, Tuface Idibia and Wiz Kid should show interest in the environment.

Michael Jackson’s Earth song became a rallying point for environmentalism in the global arena, for instance.

Issues and challenges

Wrong Content Alignment In News – Environmental news content is not at the fore in news broadcast especially on Radio and Television which enjoy a wider audience in Nigeria.

Ozone issues coverage also was given prominence in the early 90s in Nigeria just after the signing of the Montreal Protocol because of the sensational angle of the story (danger of cancer and cataract for Nigerians) but after that, everything about the ozone became scientific and was always placed in the obscure part of the newspaper where they are not noticed.

Fact is that people’s attention span is short and the first two or three news items are all that many people are interested in. For that reason, the media must devise a way to drum issues of the environment into the minds of the Nigerian people.

Research shows that in Kenya for instance, environment and climate change issues make the first to second news items, and this trend has increased citizens’ awareness and participation.

In the Nigerian Print Media, environment-related events, summits, and meetings do not make headline news. They only show up on the International News pages at the middle or end of the Newspaper pages!

Environmental issues affect people’s lives; and so should be highlighted and given prominence.

Capacity of Media Practitioners – Some editors do not know much about environmental issues like ozone depletion and climate change and this affects the quality of the media output. Some of the reporters who cover these events too, are also in the same fold; they have little knowledge about the environmental issues they are scheduled to cover, as a result we get poor reporting of environmental issues.

Media organizations should please contribute in training their reporters and correspondents on the subject matters of the beats they are assigned to cover so as to represent and present them well. This will increase their viewership or readership.

Also other environmental stakeholders in the public and private sectors should invest in media training and retraining as well as equipment of environment reporters who cover them and the issues they promote.

Turn Over (Organizational problems) – A particular problem of media organizations is that they don’t allow journalists to specialize. They move reporters from beat to beat without warning. Just when a reporter is getting used to and interested in the sector, they are tossed out to a fresh sector. This affects their effectiveness in coverage of environmental issues.

Job insecurity also sometimes pushes journalists to go from one media house to another or one beat to another. This denies them the opportunity to specialize. Media organizations have to reinvent their methodology in posting journalists. Environment and climate change should have specialized reporters as we find in security and defense media coverage.

Recommendations

The government should champion environment programs and projects and as well, ensure to fund media participation in environmental COPs like the UNFCCC, Kyoto and Montreal Protocols, Basel and Minamata Conventions.

Just as we have negotiators in the processes, we should also have media as part of the Nigerian team because it is the media that tell the story of the environment and help to localize the outcomes.

In May last year, France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, played host to a team of journalists from Nigeria to understudy the country’s strategy at International negotiations on climate change, sustainable development, energy mix changes and transitions in France.

France used this approach because the media reaches out to the people with the stories of the environment.

A more vigorous inter-face between the media and Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria should be entrenched. More grants and awards should be provided.

Journalists should explore other media channels separate from the traditional media channels, such as social media to inform and educate Nigerians about the environment. This is because it has been observed that the social media trend is tilted towards politics and social issues, and gossips.

The media should highlight environment-related matters as developmental issues in their reporting and analysis.

Just like we have Polio, AIDS, Malaria, etc, the Nigeria media organizations and practitioners should have more features, articles and documentaries for instance on ozone depletion substances so as to inform, educate and even entertain importers and traders on their dangers.

This will help businessmen follow emerging trends in the industry that will help them prevent the importation of banned substances.

Journalists need to read more so as to equip themselves and enrich their reports on environmental issues.