The weather may be finally starting to cool down in the South but it was a hot, hot summer. There’s no denying it. Sure, some politicians may attribute a changing climate to say… rocks falling into the water or something. But there’s increasing agreement that our climate is changing. So what does that mean for the future of the South? Actually, what does it mean for the South’s present?
Those are the stories you’ll find in Southerly, a nonprofit, independent media organization focusing on ecology, justice, and culture in the American South.
This week on the Reckon Interview, we talk with Lyndsey Gilpin about how both the media landscape and the literal landscape of the South are changing.
Lyndsey founded Southerly in 2016 to fill a gap she saw in Southern journalism. We discuss about the challenges of covering environmental issues in the South, what it takes to start your own publication, and how “environmental journalism” may cover more than you think – a lot more. We also discuss how national media can do a better job covering the South.
You can download and listen to the whole conversation on Acast, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts. Subscribe today so you don’t miss out on future episodes. And if you like this episode, head to www.southerlymag.org to subscribe to their weekly newsletter and support their great journalism.
Here’s an excerpt from the episode to get you started.
On covering environmental issues through Southerly
Because [Southerly is] about environmental issues, it often gets the reputation that it is, you know, very progressive, or maybe people that are reluctant to talk about climate change might not want to read it. And, from the get go, my hope and the way I’ve tried to frame climate change and other things, is in a way that is more accessible to people that might at first glance, not want to read a story about it.
In general, in the South, the conversation is too often about if people believe in climate change, and what percentage of people believe in climate change? And how is that growing from last year? Or where did it change and that sort of thing. And those stories get the headlines every year.
And I know, a lot of people might disagree with me on this but it’s sort of ineffective to me at this point, right? In a lot of ways. Especially to the audience that I’m talking to in this region, because it doesn’t really matter if people believe in it or not. It’s happening.
And I found that, more often, coal miners or people living in Eastern Kentucky, where I lived recently, or people along the coast [in] North Carolina or South Carolina, are willing to talk about flooding, right? And how that’s affecting their families or their health or their bank accounts. They’re also willing to talk about the heat waves that are harming their crops in Georgia, or wildfires in Tennessee. And that, to me, is…they’re talking about climate change and how it’s affecting them or harming them. But we don’t necessarily have to beat them over the head with statistics or guilt them into action.
So that is really important to me in this and it’s a challenging thing, because, you know, at the same time, Southerly is running stories about climate change, and obviously, to me, it’s in the background of every single story, whether it’s about the coal industry, or a flood or whatever it is.
But it is important in conversations, I think, to really see where people are at and meet them where they’re at, because a lot of folks are really willing to talk about the effects of climate change without getting into the you know, very understandably, politicized issue that is abstract sometimes. it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you’re on the ground and trying to like live day to day and everyone’s arguing about what people are talking about at the United Nations, you know? And it’s important. We know that’s important, but I try to understand where people are coming from oftentimes that that that feels very abstract and, and far away. So, I think that framing stories, the way we’re way I’m trying to with Southerly can move the conversation forward in a way that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.
For more of Lyndsey Gilpin’s thoughts on media and environmental coverage, listen to the full episode here.