In November 2023, Internews’ Earth Journalism Network (EJN) and the Science Journalists Association of India (SJAI) co-hosted a workshop for science and environmental communicators in New Delhi, with the aim of improving participants 'understanding of India’s renewable energy sector.
Participants also attended SJAI’s inaugural conference, which commenced with a keynote presentation by Helga Reitz, Science Communications Manager at ETH AI Center Zurich, who spoke about the uses of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Science Journalism. She urged journalists not to adopt an extreme position on AI — be it blind faith or absolute abstinence.
Over the course of several fireside chats and panel discussions, participants were introduced to different styles of storytelling (including mobile journalism) to appeal to new audiences and discussed the challenges and opportunities that exist in communicating scientific information to their audiences.
At the workshop, Nikhil Mall of Vasudha Foundation, a non-profit focused on sustainable solutions, spoke about the country’s achievements thus far in the renewable energy sector, and how progress in rooftop solar and other areas could be accelerated.
Aravind Chandiran, an associate professor from IIT-Madras, explained the science behind green hydrogen technology, and why it should be prioritized if India is to meet its renewable energy targets. He talked about how it would help decarbonize the long-haul transport, fertilizer, oil-refinery, and metal extraction sectors.
After lunch, Jaya Shreedhar, senior health media advisor at Internews, explained how increased greenhouse gas emissions and emissions from coal burning exacerbate respiratory diseases like COPD and asthma. She invited communicators to explore the health impacts of heatwaves and vector-borne diseases, and how the global climate crisis may also trigger a nutritional epidemic due to increasing food insecurity.
C. N. Tharamani, an expert on energy storage from IIT-Ropar, then provided a detailed explanation on the batteries currently in use in the renewable sector. She walked the participants through the recent scientific breakthroughs and developments in this field, and how they might make batteries more accessible in the future.
In the last session of the day, media trainers Manon Verchot and Sanshey Biswas from InOldNews showed the participants how to edit a video on their phone using open-source software.
Workshop participants had the opportunity to visit the campus of International Solar Alliance in Gurugram, where Ajay Mathur, Director General, and his team explained how solar energy is key to securing low-carbon growth trajectories throughout the developing world. Through demonstrations, the communicators learned about the potential of decentralized renewable energy technology to serve remote areas.
In the final session, the communicators worked in small groups and discussed potential story ideas that emerged as a result of their participation in the workshop: how decentralized solar could be used to power public health centers, the potential of similar technologies to improve women’s livelihoods and to increase farm productivity through solar-powered irrigation. Through their presentations, journalists explored an intersectional approach to renewable energy that can not only power but empower too.
Seetu Tiwari, an independent journalist from Bihar, shared that she felt more confident networking with energy experts after the workshop. “In my previous reporting on renewable energy and climate change, I was able to satisfactorily gather ground content, but struggled to access and frame the report with expert’s views. After the workshop, I am more confident about networking with subject experts to add new perspectives to my reports."
Joydeep Gupta, EJN India Manager, pointed out that it was a new experience for journalists from small towns to interact with science journalists from across India and exchange notes. He was also glad to note that the field trip to the International Solar Alliance facility enables the participants to see the similarities and differences between various developing countries.
Banner image: Group Photo at International Solar Alliance / Credit: Manasi Pinto.