While public perception research on forests often uses surveys and questionnaires as data collection methods, there are many other ways to inquire about how society perceives and interacts with them. These include repurposing online and social media data to understand what forests mean to people and how widely used digital platforms portray relationships between people and forests.
Author: Rina Tsubaki
Science is the key to the future of our forests. Without it, we cannot restore and make forests resilient to climate change. But is science really all we need? What about the role stories play in forest restoration and, thinking even bigger, in systems change?
If we want to change a system and foster lasting improvements in our society, we need to tackle the root cause of societal issues. Through the SUPERB project, we are ultimately aiming at systems change by collectively restoring forests and biodiversity in twelve locations in Europe. Part of this work involves exploring how people see, feel and value these places in their neighborhoods so that the work can continue beyond the project.
So, why am I bringing up “stories” here? What’s that got to do with forest restoration and systems change?
From wildfires to deforestation in the tropics, journalism brings various forest-related issues to the public attention. Yet, one of the main concerns from the scientific communities is the issue of ‘speed over accuracy’, where many news journalists fail to report complex topics without providing contextual background. Particularly in the digital age, when the speed of news is faster than ever before, there is even more pressure on today’s news industry to report forest-related issues in a timely and accurate manner.
The good news is that there is a wide variety of journalism practices that take serious consideration of the process for inquiry. In particular, investigative journalists take a unique approach to exploring the issues in depth before jumping to a quick conclusion. Many investigative journalists spend years following a single issue by working closely with scientific experts and mastering the skills to wrangle complex (and often unstructured) data to identify the links that no one has ever addressed in the news.
For almost five years, EFI has been actively engaging with media from all around the world to help them explore complex issues related to European and global forests. Under the Lookout Station, a science-media capacity-building initiative, we’ve trained more than 320 editors and journalists through 12 workshops and masterclasses organised in-person and online. Our focus has always been on building a bridge between science and media by offering free training and open platforms to engage with experts. We’ve taken this approach because we believe in making long-term impacts at the individual and an editorial level instead of merely generating immediate media reporting.