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How to Cover Covid-19, the Anthropocene and Risk

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Sustain What? is a global online conversation identifying solutions to the complicated, complex and shape-shifting challenges of this epoch in which human activity has become a powerful influence on the climate and environment.

A prime focus of these conversations is making sense of, and getting the most out of, the planet's fast-forward information environment, writes host Andrew Revkin, a longtime environmental journalist and the founding director of Columbia University's Earth Institute Initiative on Communication and Sustainability.

Internews’ Earth Journalism Network is partnering with Revkin and Columbia to bring you a series of video workshops and discussions on the impact of, and responses to, COVID-19.

Our first webinar, The Press and the Pandemic, brought in Pulitzer prize-winning epidemic reporter Laurie Garrett for a two-hour interactive conservation with journalists and journalism students about the challenges and choices facing reporters covering the coronavirus pandemic. One key: Track displaced people and impacts in places where social distancing is impossible and the stresses are greatest.


“The role of the reporter in a pandemic like this, whether you’re focused on your own town and your city, local government or you’re focused on the global picture -- you are about accountability,” said Garrett. “Your job is to go out and ask: ‘OK, politician X, Mr. President, Mr. Mayor, Ms. City Councilwoman … you promised X, and I went out and looked and it’s not there, it’s not happening. Instead, this is happening, and lives are on the line. Where are you? Why haven’t you kept your promises?”

Revkin says a top priority of his Earth Institute initiative is to help journalists in the world’s most vulnerable places connect with relevant expertise in ways that can boost local resilience and sustainable wellbeing. He also is eager to use Sustain What webcasts as an amplifier that can draw attention to models that work well. One example, unrelated to journalism, was his recent live conversation with a volunteer network of citizens in Bhopal, India, working to get food to poor households that have lost income due to the coronavirus lockdown.

Below you’ll find an archive of other Sustain What? videos related to the intersection between our health, our environment and our society.

The sessions are available on YouTube, Facebook and Periscope.


  • Cutting Community Risks as COVID-19 and a Cyclone Collide: With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting life even as “normal” disasters loom, there’s an urgent need for scientists, media and communities to work together to help community boost resilience. That need is playing out in real-time in the Bay of Bengal region, where a powerful cyclone heading toward the coast between easternmost India and Bangladesh is heightening the enormous exposure and vulnerabilities already facing informal settlements and refugee camps. A key to preventing calamity is getting the right data to the right people in the right way, says Revkin, and media plays a vital role in doing so. In this Sustain What webcast, journalists facing forecasts of a dangerous cyclone -- including EJN's Joydeep Gupta -- speak with Columbia University’s Adam Sobel, a climate scientist and lead author of a recent report on Improving Lead Time for Tropical Cyclone Forecasting in Bangladesh; Mélody Braun, who focuses on climate risk reduction and related financial strategies; Nachiketa Acharya, a climate scientist working on seasonal extreme-weather forecasts and planning; and Andrew Kruczkiewicz, who works to boost the value of remote-sensing environmental data for humanitarian and emergency-response agencies.

  • Global Press Reports on the Impacts of COVID-19 in Asia and Africa: Global Press ( is an innovative news organization training, supporting and publishing the work of female journalists in some of the world’s least-reported and most turbulent regions. Here, host Andy Revkin and Global Press COO Laxmi Parthasarathy discuss the unfolding impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic with two of the network’s top team members: Manori Wijesekera, regional program manager for Asia, based in Sri Lanka, and senior reporter Kudzai Mazvarirwofa in Zimbabwe.
  • Pandemic Lessons from Ecosystems for Human Systems: In this episode, three scientists who probe human and non-human systems in search of resilience and sustainability -- and brittleness and risk -- explore the profound failures (and successes) in how nations, organizations and communities are confronting the COVID-19 pandemic. Guests: Saleem Ali, professor of energy & environment, University of Delaware; Deborah Brosnan, marine scientist and disaster-risk/resilience analyst; Patrick Keys, co-author of a landmark paper on “Anthropocene Risk” and a geographer at Colorado State University.
  • The Press, the Pandemic and Presidential Propaganda: Pandemics tend to be surrounded by what the World Health Organization and others call "infodemics." From India to the US heartland to the White House, fakery and noise have fueled dangerous public responses and muffled science and policy as the COVID-19 pandemic has exploded across the planet. On this Sustain What webcast, Revkin leads a solutions-focused conversation with guests Jay Rosen, a New York University journalism professor, blogger and media innovator; Zeynep Tufecki, who studies how digital technology, artificial intelligence, and society interact as a faculty associate at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society; and Daniel Castro, vice president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation.
  • Reporting on Climate Change, COVID-19 and Other Global Threats: In a live chat with students from the City University New York (CUNY) School of Law, Revkin explores lessons learned in more than three decades of covering human-driven climate change and other global environmental risks with CUNY Professor of Law Rebecca Bratspies.


Banner image: TV cameras / Credit: Matt Chesin on Unsplash