UNESCO’s Azoulay and scientist Chomsky keynote AMIC meet

Published November 27, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid

PAGBABAGO

Dr. Florangel Rosario Braid

Two eminent world leaders, UNESCO director-general Audrey Azoulay, and MIT professor emeritus and author, Noam Chomsky who keynoted the 28th annual conference of the Asian Media Information and Communication Centre (AMIC), highlighted the critical role of science communication in addressing information challenges confronting the world’s triple crises – climate change, the pandemic, and the “infodemic.”

Planet Earth is “heading toward an impending climate catastrophe. But science can offer feasible solutions with the cooperation of media and an informed public.

The two keynote speakers further underscored the critical role of independent and alternative media – media and information that people can trust, and which encourages diversity of opinion.

UNESCO’s Azoulay cited her agency’s past and current efforts in enabling the public to understand the key role played by independent, responsible, and pluralistic media, open educational resources, networks of fact-checkers and media and information literacy in enhancing accountability and public trust in the light of misinformation on climate change, safety of vaccines and challenges in public health.

“We have seen a very strong demand for science journalism during the pandemic. There is a thirst for information, a burning desire among people to understand their rapidly changing world. However, with the advent of internet and social media, there are now so many sources of information that people do not know whom to trust,” she noted.

The spread of disinformation through the “infodemic” led more than 130 countries to sign a Cross Regional Statement on the infodemic in the context of COVID-19 in 2020 under the auspices of the World Health Organizaion. In this statement, the signatory countries observed that the infodemic can be as dangerous to human health and security as the pandemic itself.

Azoulay cited the agency’s partnership with science centers and museums, publication of scientific publications, and the training of 7,000 journalists worldwide on science communication.

Noam Chomsky’s latest publication “The Precipice,” a collection of interviews on neoliberalism, and the pandemic, calls for the urgent need for radical change.

In an interview with journalist Marites Vitug, Chomsky said the story about the impending climate catastrophe is not being adequately told to the public partly because media owners and editors would rather opt to put out stories that prove to be more profitable, and partly, because politicians and lobbyists send out messages that conflict with those sent by scientists.

Two feasible solutions to the crisis are – for science communication to make the public understand the science behind the facts and what needs to be done in search for solutions, and, for the public to support it, it has to understand it.

He cites how fossil fuel companies are engaged in propaganda to convince people that the climate crisis is not that serious so that they can keep on using fossil fuels. They engage in what he calls “greenwashing,” meaning, they will continue to use fossil fuels but they will figure out some way to compensate for it.

Thus, he suggests that it is important to create alternative media which encourages diversity of opinion, interaction, interchange, the kind that takes place in a healthy, scientific community. There are plenty of alternatives (such as public media) but they require social action, a political pressure. Scientists and academics play a major role in this. They must collaborate to get public support in search of solutions to health and climate crisis.

It is important to emphasize the severity of the crisis, and that we have the means to overcome it. It is not a lost cause, and it is not a time to just give up, and quit. There are things that can be done, they are feasible and within range, and could lead to a much better world.

But the public has to understand the crucial necessity of carrying out major scientific enterprises. They are costly but are absolutely necessary if we are to ever survive our world.

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