"The best advocates dream with their heads in the clouds, but keep their feet on the ground," Gregg Yan, an award-winning advocacy communicator and campaigner recently told an engaged crowd of around 100 researchers, professionals, high school and college students here in UP Los Banos.

Gregg Yan is the founder and current director of Best Alternatives, an environmental communications think-tank which publicizes solutions to various fields, and the special guest speaker of the Department of Development Journalism (DDJ) Workshop Series' session on writing on biodiversity held at the ICOPED Auditorium last 10 September 2018.

"That is why we have to know and appreciate that aside from telling stories that are easily understood by any audience, the job of an environmental communicator is to tell biodiversity-related stories from the heart," Yan said in an interview.

The problem with communicating conservation is that its core essence, sometimes, would become too technical to be appreciated. Talking about biodiversity issues need not be too scientific. According to MNH extension staff Florante Cruz, biodiversity as a subject should be naturally and fairly simple and easy to understand even for most people.

"Biodiversity simply means diversity in life. Humans depend on it, directly or indirectly, which is why it is important for us to take part in disentangling biodiversity issues and be encouraged to think a little bit more about the repercussions of our actions," Cruz said.

According to Gregg Yan, people's communication skills are considered properly used when these have positively affected the fight for conservation. He presented three case studies which involved the power of communication and its good and bad effects, i.e. ecotourism as a conservation management option for whale sharks in Donsol, Sorsogon; the punishment of elements from other countries which destroyed kilometers of coral reef in the Tubbataha National Marine Park; and the decrease of clownfish in the ocean because of the increased demand promoted by an animated movie.

"Communication and campaigns can help resolve these issues. We make sure that these issues stay in the minds of people, stay strong enough to sustain interest and influence our policy makers," Yan said at the sidelines of the event. "I was fortunate enough to be part of high-profile media campaigns which helped attain success for the conservation of several marine species," he added.

As part of his sharing, Yan gave five tips on how to write effective stories that can prompt an action or change: Immersing oneself in your work; generating measurable actions; catalyzing outcomes, not outputs; having a strong call to action; and promising to make the world a better place.

"A good story consists of a strong visual, conflict, a single and relatable character, a clear and urgent message. A writer should not be afraid of giving it an unhappy – or unfinished – ending," he added.

Just like in any line of work, an environmental journalist may encounter several challenges ahead. "The most important thing to remember is to enjoy the experience," Yan pointed near the end of his talk.

"When you write about the environment, on biodiversity, you will see history unfold right before your eyes. Because as every moment passes by, more and more of our biodiversity becomes threatened, endangered or even extinct," the speaker said.

As a people, we are left with the daunting task of changing the world and making an impact even with the smallest of steps. "Writing on biodiversity is one of these small steps, as every bit of information, big or small, contributes to understanding problems faced by the world's biodiversity, which includes us," Cruz shared.

Photo by Vandolph Maningas, Office of Public Relations

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