How to engage public on climate change issues through framing

Many countries are keen to engage their citizens on climate change, using interactive platforms and multimedia channels that have positive impacts on climate change adaptive communities.

By Peter Makwanya

It is the necessary engagement tools and procedures that need to be harnessed so that the citizens are empowered and engaged into the appropriate discourse. While it is quite true that people are being engaged anyhow, it is the manner and level of such engagement that is a cause for concern.

People who are under siege from climate retributions need to be engaged from a variety of situational frames of references; they need to be introduced and interrogated to a wide cross-section of climate change awareness, education and appropriate information literacy skills for life-long learning.

This is the kind of learning that is unique in its own right, suitable and conducive for nurturing sustainable development ideas.

These public engagement techniques on climate change would be situationaly interactive and inclusive, thereby, enabling people to generate sustainable ideas and life-skills for their livelihoods and daily problem-solving transactions. Reframing climate-specific narratives in ways that engage the citizens would help to communicate climate change issues in clearer ways.

Reframing climate issues would transform humanity perspectives and bring the necessary world-views for interpreting weather phenomena, as well as strengthening interactive and participatory platforms on the ground. All these initiatives should be backed by the relevant media and multimedia channels and networks.

The other positive and engaging frames should be of a malleable political nature and orientation, so that high-ranking government officials, who include members of Parliament and ministers would need to demonstrate their roles of opinion leaders where their views will be representative and credible. They can only pass this test – which is the test of life – if they are climate iterate first and foremost.

Already they have the power to engage and empower the public with ideas, intoxicate or sufficiently confuse them, to think along their ideologies, then they can be of useful nature. But if these opinion leaders have not been environmentally literature in the first place, then they can become stumbling blocks themselves.

Unfortunately, the majority of community and opinion leaders in our midst, lack that environmental touch and conviction. They are strangers to sustainability issues and the best they can do is to grandstand and pretend, while the climate continues to burn.

They need to be environmentally-conscious and literate in order to foster environmental stewardship. All the perspectives and worldviews which strengthen and transform climate change communication strategies and frames, need to be harnessed for the benefit of a wide cross-cutting spectrum of the climate change audience worldwide.

As climate-conscious citizens, people do not want to continue nursing climate change procedural and information gaps, which would be sources of livelihood drawbacks and underdevelopment. The other critical issue is how much would the public draw from the available climate change communication resources at their disposal, including being conversant with ethical, technical and legal issues surrounding climate legislation and governance. Because communication is key, the role of the media should be effectively interrogated, the same thing applies to the role of new-media technologies, citizen journalism and oramedia in communicating climate change framings.

Among the citizens of any given country, while some would have been sufficiently engaged, others may not be so competent enough, and would need the expertise of the conscientised ones and opinion leaders to engage and orient them. The reasons behind these is that other forms of engagements are quite expensive, superficial and less people centred.

As such, instead of sufficiently engaging, they become scare-crows and not accessible to many. Some of these are quality magazines, books or journals and online platforms that are not easily reachable by the majority of the public, climate laypersons and audiences.

People need relevant and interpretive storylines that can be framed accordingly as per their contexts and world-views.

Climate audiences are not interested in issues that are far-reaching, misplaced and those that do not communicate their realities as well as storylines.

It is also important for the environmentalists and laypersons alike, to be able to interpret why certain environmental issues may be problematic and without any solutions.

These initiatives and practices will also give new impetuses on what possible climate action to take, for the sustainable future that we all want.

Peter Makwanya is a climate change communicator. He writes in his capacity and can be contacted on: petrovmoyt@gmail.com