Ecofriendly in Central Asia

A dog sits by a pile of garbage at a landfill while people rummage through the piles.

Living Asia mixes data-driven reporting, viral videos, and lifestyle blogging to deliver environmental news to new audiences

(This story was originally posted on Medium)

Can you live “green” in Central Asia? Olga Geyne tried. And she let thousands on the web watch.

For the launch of the Central Asian web site Living Asia, Geyne of Bishkek, Kyrgystan, along with two bloggers from Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, documented their lives over the course of several weeks, attempting such green living standards as biking to work, sorting recyclables, and upcycling, all in Central Asian capital cities where air pollution, environmental degradation, and water safety are massive concerns. Kazakhstan, in fact, bears the unfortunate rank as one of the 10 “most toxic” countries in the world.

Each post mixes facts (90% of waste in a Bishkek landfill is from unsorted household trash), quick videos, and first-person experiences.

Living Asia uses unique approaches like these lifestyle posts to reach audiences in Central Asia who, on the whole, have limited access to extensive environmental coverage. An assessment of news coverage in 2016 found that ecological news of any kind made up less than 6% of the news in the region.

And Living Asia’s approach is working. Stories are viewed and shared from the site and from the site’s Facebook page — top stories have been garnered close to 10,000 views and 500 Facebook shares.

While some coverage is irreverent, like when participants at an environmental reporting workshop took on the viral-video Mannequin Challenge, garnering more than 6,500 views, there’s real science happening and being discussed, with a depth and quality of visuals and presentation that is unmatched in the region.

Documenting the Aral Sea

The death of the Aral Sea is one of the world’s largest environmental disasters. Living Asia embarked on a multi-part mixed-media exploration of the crisis, explaining not just the science behind the sea extinction, but the impact on local communities over decades.

With 360-degree video, drone footage, and extensive documentary photography, “The Sea Nevermore” lays out the science, politics, and personal stories behind this environmental story.

The Aral Sea was once the fourth-largest lake in the world. In the 1960s, water was diverted from the two rivers that fed the sea, for crop irrigation. The sea, and the vast economy around fishing that supported the region, dried up.

Living Asia is a unique offering in a region hungry for environmental news and information.

Belarusian media watchdog included Living Asia in its list of five inspiring media projects about the environment, saying “The authors demonstrate in practice how to report on ecological topics from different perspectives and in interesting ways. You can find informative cards and stories and virtual reality, as well as beautiful longreads.”

Living Asia is supported by the European Union, as one aspect of the “Media for Improved Reporting on Environment and Natural Resources in Central Asia” project.


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