Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Guyana shine at Caribbean Climate Justice Journalism Awards

Feature image via Canva Pro.

In the face of the escalating climate crisis, the Caribbean region is at a pivotal juncture, where the need for informed discourse and impactful journalism has never been more critical. It is against this backdrop the non-profit Climate Tracker (CT), which aims to support, train and incentivise climate journalism globally, launched its inaugural Caribbean Climate Journalism Awards.

Believing in the power of journalism to affect positive change in climate and environmental policy, CT’s Caribbean team has trained and supported close to 100 journalists from 15+ Caribbean countries with one-on-one mentoring and intensive thematic learning. The more than 220 climate stories those journalists have published over the past two years have covered a multitude of pressing topics, from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Conference of Parties (COP), to climate justice and energy transition.

The Awards, however, went beyond solely Climate Tracker Fellows. Instead, it was an open, regional call that sought to recognise, celebrate, and honour the dedicated efforts of journalists committed to unravelling the complexities of climate change and its multifaceted impacts on the Caribbean.

The judging panel consisted of two journalists, Jamaica-based Global Voices contributor Emma Lewis, who is passionate about the environment and climate justice, and Trinidadian journalist Tyrell Gittens, project coordinator for the Cari-Bois Environmental News Network, one of Global Voices’ publishing partners; as well as technical expert Rianna Gonzales, who is a water resources management professional in Trinidad and Tobago, and a champion of both youth and environmental advocacy.

Speaking at the virtual awards ceremony, Lewis emphasised the need for climate stories in the region: “Journalism plays an important role in explaining and illustrating climate impacts. It is important in the Caribbean because citizens know and feel the practical impacts of the lack of justice. Through storytelling, we help raise awareness and are able to humanise climate change.”

“At the heart of it,” she continued, “is people. Climate justice goes hand in hand with human rights. For a single parent, it might be struggling to provide for a family when there is just a trickle of water in the tap or no water at all; for a person living with a disability, it might be that mobility is taken away; for fisherfolk, it might be more extreme swings between drought and floods. These are rights that we often take for granted but we must consider [how they are being dealt with in our respective countries] when they are being whittled away by climate impacts.”

As a judge, Lewis expressed how pleased she was to discover stories that had rarely, if ever, been told: “What of the young students struggling in airless classrooms? What of the plight of people who work outside? That story about the dire situation of firefighters in the Dominican Republic; that story from Suriname that remarkably wove in advocacy and holding those in power accountable. Climate justice stories are crying out to be told in the Caribbean. ”

Offering advice to the young journalists in attendance, she added, “Continue offering hope and resilience. You are all inspiring. I encourage you to push harder, reflect, and dig deeper. May the conversations continue.”

Award winners included two reporters from the Dominican Republic — Rubí Morillo, a 23-year-old journalist and video editor known for her ability to create compelling audiovisual content, picked up the prize for Best Youth Climate Reporter after she did a deep dive into the world of fashion, and Laura Castillo's story on transforming sargassum copped the prize for Best Solutions-Oriented Climate Reporting.

The English-speaking Caribbean also fared well. Guyana's Vishani Ragobeer won Best Investigative Climate Journalism for a story about people who help turtles that are losing their homes. The Award for Best Climate Justice Story went to two regional journalists — Guyana's Neil Marks for a piece on the rights of Indigenous people, and Jamaica's Candice Stewart, whose piece on period poverty was published on Global Voices in September 2023.

In a tear-jerking acceptance speech, Stewart admitted, “Looking into period poverty experiences almost did not happen for me” because of an environment that did not support her goals as a climate journalist. “It got to a point where this story — a story I believed in, a story worth examining and telling — was trampled upon and dismissed under patriarchy and sexism. After two days of anxiety-ridden but careful consideration, I made what felt like a radical decision to leave — in protest, and in protecting myself. From there, I focused on the [Climate Tracker] Fellowship and the amazing stories I would write. Fast forward to today, the same story that was trampled upon in an environment set on making me feel small, is the same story I'm being awarded for today.”

Indeed, Caribbean journalists often face funding, training, and technology challenges, hindering their ability to conduct in-depth investigations and produce high-quality reporting on climate change. Additionally, a lack of institutional support and protection can leave journalists vulnerable to intimidation, censorship, and even physical harm when covering sensitive environmental issues.

Despite these obstacles, however, this inaugural group of awardees has not only demonstrated remarkable resilience, creativity, and determination in their pursuit of climate justice journalism but also shown commitment to amplifying the voices of marginalised communities, shedding light on environmental injustices, and holding those in power accountable for their actions.

The winning stories will be published on Global Voices in the coming weeks.

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