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How Green Is My Journalism

Pamela Philipose

Edited by Keya Acharya and Frederick Noronha
Sage Publications, Delhi, 2010, pp. 303, Rs. 395.00


Environmental journalism in South Asia, especially in India, despite having a plethora of very eminent fathers—and mothers—continues to be somewhat orphaned. Held hostage to a variety of forces, from the inhospitable terrain provided by an increasingly corporatized media to a fickle readership/viewership, environmental journalism has had to depend on factors outside of itself for its relevance. Take the recent outrage over Bhopal. The story of a lethal gas leak—among the biggest of any breaking news in post-Independent India—has ebbed and flowed like the ocean. A recent court verdict has spurred a recent avalanche of media attention. Fortunately so. But it begs the question, ‘why was the living tragedy of an already deeply affected community living on a toxic time bomb in the vicinity of the Union Carbide factor under-reported these 25 years and more’? This is not to say, of course, that environmental journalism in India has not had its moments. The very fact that it is recognized today as an important, credible genre testifies to the work of innumerable practitioners, some well-known, others less so. To begin at the beginning… Darryl D’Monte’s foreword takes note of what is perhaps the first important citizen response to an environmental issue in post-partition India: the battle to save the Silent Valley waged by Zafar Futehally and a whole host of people. It did more than convert D’Monte himself to the cause, it brought home to the country the fact that its natural resources cannot be taken for granted; that they were a part of the web of life; that they are being held in trust for future generations; that they have a value immeasurably in excess of what a state government and its civil engineers may estimate. Silent Valley also put on the table the vexed binary polarities of ‘environment’ versus ‘development’, which sometimes translated into ‘big dams’ versus ‘environment’, or even as ‘tigers’ versus ‘tribals’. It is an argument that has not gone away, even within the broad rubric of environmental journalism. Those labelled ‘eco-fundamentalists’ make no compromise on the need to preserve a pristine environment and argue that the health of the tiger is fundamental to the health of the entire ecosystem. Echoes of that argument find a resonance in this volume as well. Lyla Bavadam, a senior assistant editor with the Frontline, in her contribution, ‘Environmental Stories, Among The Most Challenging’, puts ...

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