NLN and Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism collaborate on environmental storytelling

28 november 2023

During the ARIJ 16th Annual Forum in Amman, Jordan, alums of the master Non Linear Narrative at the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague (KABK) present three extraordinary examples of visual storytelling about environmental justice. These examples are a attempt to counter resignation and climate change denial, and help spark more inclusive conversations with the audience.

The three examples were developed in a research collaboration with investigative journalists from Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ), called Rewriting Climate Headlines lasting from July to December 2023. In this collaboration, designers and journalists looked together at emerging narratives of climate change impact in order to investigate how media and politics frame reporting on topics like forest fires, water scarcity and illegal wildlife hunting to shape public opinion.

Alums of the master Non Linear Narrative in a panel talk about inclusive climate action, resilience and climate accountability during Arij 16th Annual Forum in Amman..

In July 2023, this collaboration was kicked off by a week-long summer school during which participants engaged with guest speakers from the fields of journalism, environmentalism and art. Together, they’ve developed visual concepts for new approaches to storytelling about environmental justice in the attempt to counter resignation and climate change denial, and help spark more inclusive conversations with the audience. Ultimately, the interdisciplinary cooperation led to stories that map migration routes from a peregrine falcon’s point of view, translate empirical data on wildfires into a spatial experience and make tangible the principles of women’s rights by means of animated video interviews.

To transcend national agendas and develop a multi-perspective approach to the understanding of climate change, the Rewriting Climate Headlines research team included experts from Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Italy, Lebanon, the Netherlands, South Africa and the United Kingdom. The complex and interdependent causes and conditions of the climate crisis, make it a difficult topic to report about and turn it into one of the most challenging examples of a non-linear narrative per se.

‘Cross border collaboration between designers and investigative journalists engaging in deep discussions to transfer visual investigations into art installations is cutting edge. We are very excited to see this extraordinary first of its kind experiment happening,’ says Rawan Damen, the director general of ARIJ.

Check out the video to learn more about the collaboration between NLN alums and Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism.

Leading up to the ARIJ 16th Annual Forum, the social network and review platform We Don’t Have Time has talked to the journalists and designers of Rewriting Climate Headlines and published a series of unique videocasts related to the joint investigations. Check out their conversations at www.wedonthavetime.org. In 2024, the projects are expected to be presented in the Netherlands.

Project descriptions

Forest fires in Morocco have become wide-spread. The temperature has increased, the implementation of fire prevention programmes is imbalanced, and lands are taken for investment and converted into business projects. Together these factors have caused a decline in vegetation cover, raised carbon emissions to record numbers and now threaten the lives of the population.

The investigation analyses data collected for forest fires from 2012 to 2022. The rate of their spread is monitored and their distribution within the regions of Morocco and areas that have been damaged. The backgrounds behind the outbreak of fires in 2022 – the largest of their kind in Morocco’s history – are examined. This is the beginning of a journey to uncover who benefits from the decline in forest cover due to fire, and a questioning of the governance in managing fire prevention programmes.

All efforts to rescue endangered peregrine falcons are in vain as the birds are still vulnerable to illegal trade and climate change. While climate change affects the migration routes of the European falcons, their journey to the south is hampered by hunters and traders in North Africa. The story tracks down the hunting practices and illegal trade of falcons protected by the CITES convention in Libya.

The investigation traces the paths of their smuggling across the Egypt border and their transport to Gulf States where falcons have a strong cultural relevance. Some OSINT tools are deployed and interviews with relevant parties are conducted to bring the truth of breaching the international convention CITES into the light.

Women are struggling in South Jordan Valley, a site for agriculture with a year-round agricultural climate, fertile soils and scarcity of water. The area located near the Dead Sea of Jordan suffers from a monopolistic control over groundwater sources by a multinational ownership company in the area. This suffering is exacerbated by climate change. Women in the valley are among the most vulnerable. The majority of the female farmers are temporary workers in the fields. Others plant crops with their family in rented lands owned by the government. They all struggle to put food on the table. A lot of them are the main providers for their families. This project gives them a voice to tell their stories, they talk about the past, the present and share their concerns about the future.

Rewriting Climate Headlines is generously funded by ARIJ and supported by the Royal Academy of Art, the Hague.

Participating alums: Nelleke Broeze, Sophie Czich, Jan Johan Draaistra, Cristina Lavosi, Daan Veerman and Hattie Wade

ARIJ journalists: Munir Al-Khatib, E’thar AlAzem, Ahmed Ashour, Yassir El Makhtoum and Mohammed Komani

Project lead: Lauren Alexander, Rawan Damen, Niels Schrader and Boris van Westering

Project supervision: Lauren Alexander, Rawan Damen, Rosie Heinrich, Niels Schrader and Boris van Westering

Special thanks to: Ingrid Gercama, Dougald Hine, Niekolaas Lekkerkerk and Marco Minoni