To mark International Day for Disaster Reduction, a group of people are launching a campaign aiming to encourage everyone in the Mekong region and beyond to safeguard the rainforest.
The #ShowMeYourTree campaign launched on October 13. It intends to inspire and build a network of engaged youth and citizens working toward socially-sound rainforest conservation in the Mekong region, including Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar, through a platform for idea and information sharing, collaboration, and solidarity.
Everyone can participate in the campaign to protect the rainforest by sharing memories, images, Instagram stories, short movies, memes, slogans, and drawings related to their favorite forest, trees, or plant, from the serious to the funny, incidental to confronting to dive a fun, dynamic engagement with followers or subscribers by using the hashtag #ShowMeYourTree.
Aum Vijitra, the Pulitzer outreach coordinator from Thailand, told Kiripost that the campaign is part of wider efforts to raise awareness about the challenges raised in the Pulitzer Center's report on global rainforests, namely the Congo Basin, Amazon, and Southeast Asian areas.
She added that as a SEA Asia coordinator, she initiated the campaign with the assistance of community teams in Myanmar and Cambodia. Additionally, she hopes the activity will provide a valuable moment for individuals to pause, reflect, and create content about their environment and place within it.
“The action will hopefully drive awareness and interest towards the Pulitzer Center’s rainforest reporting across the Mekong, from people who know little about the environment and the issues and interests around its decline, to experts who want to widen their knowledge,” she said.
She said Pulitzer rainforest reporting is diverse and reflects the hard, rigorous work of Mekong area journalists. Therefore, her challenge was to devise a campaign that captures the breadth and depth of the reporting while encouraging the public to take action through social media.
“It’s only just launched and the feedback so far has been great. With IG stories, comics, and short films made by a group of high school kids from Thailand to Myanmar and Cambodia,” she said. “The campaign has been a wonderful challenge to promote good, change-making journalism, but also the protection of our shared Mekong forests and environment, an issue close to my heart.”
She said that the campaign will run until the end of November in Bangkok and January in Phnom Penh. However, she hopes that it will continue after it ends.
“We are hoping that the #ShowMeYourTree campaign will be more than a social media campaign but a movement that goes beyond a campaign end date,” she said.
According to a campaign press release, the Mekong has lost 38,230 square kilometers of forest over the previous two decades due to logging, infrastructure, and industry - an area comparable to 5,354 football fields.
Southeast Asia has roughly 15 percent of the world's tropical forests and 20 percent of all plant, animal, and marine species. However, the region has one of the world's fastest rates of deforestation, losing 1.2 percent of its rainforest per year since 2013.
Meanwhile, Cambodia lost about 22,000 square kilometers of its tree cover, or more than 20 percent between 2001 and 2019, according to Global Forest Watch statistics. Conversion of forest areas for agricultural use and targeted logging of valuable species, such as rosewood, for Asian furniture markets are the primary drivers of deforestation in Cambodia.
Flora Pereira, director of International Education and Outreach, said that issues such as the environment, deforestation, and indigenous rights are not always simple to communicate and engage people on.
“Influencers are a key part of this equation,” she said in a press release. “Their voices are echoed to reach specific audiences in the midst of the ocean of information available online.”
Anton L. Delgado, Rainforest Investigative Network fellow, said that engaging with audiences on social media is critical to safeguarding the rainforests and natural resources.
“By partnering with online influencers and content creators, reporters will have a far better chance of reaching and educating diverse audiences with their Pulitzer Center investigations,” he said.
Catherine Harry, Cambodian vlogger and founder of the blog “A Dose of Cath”, said that she once read that scientists could tell the history of a location, whether there was a wildfire, by inspecting trees' annual rings. She added that each tree has its own version of recorded history, what it has been through, and its own story.
“They [trees] can say so much without saying a single word, that’s incredible to me. That’s why I'm delighted to be a part of this campaign because the history of our rainforest and its roots are intertwined with our human history. We're one and the same,” she said. “Without them, there would be no life and there would be no us.”
Furthermore, the #ShowmeYourTree campaign will hold two exhibits in Thailand and Cambodia to raise awareness of rainforest concerns in the Mekong area, which includes Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar.
“Our Roots, Our Forest” Art Exhibition
Our Roots, Our Forest art exhibition will take place at Bangkok Art and Cultural Center on November 29 to December 12 in Bangkok.
Miguel Jeronimo, a photographer and exhibition organizer, told Kiripost that there will also be a panel discussion with a Pulitzer Center grantee who reported in the Mekong area, a member of a CSO working on this subject, and a representative from an indigenous group in northern Thailand on December 1.
“This is the main art exhibition from artists, activists, and content creators in the Mekong region namely Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar,” he said. “Inspired by Pulitzer Center reporting on the Mekong rainforest, it will be an exhibition of paintings, sculpture, film, illustrations, photographs, and many more from Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia.”
He added that the exhibition seeks to ignite a conversation between art and journalism concerning the future of Southeast Asia's rainforests.
“The format aims to engage new audiences with this vital issue in a place where creativity meets research and reporting,” he said.
“Pray for Prey” Art Exhibition
Pray for Prey art exhibition will be held in F3 - Friends Future Factory in Phnom Penh from January 10 to January 31, 2023.
Miguel Jeronimo said that it is a localized exhibition, with the majority of the work coming from Cambodian artists. Meanwhile, the premise is the same as it was during the Bangkok exhibition.
“Same as the other exhibition, the only difference is the venue,” he said. “For this exhibition, the venue is a community creative space so the format will be more engaging and interactive than the venue in Bangkok.”
He added that it is not only with exhibitions but also with traditional dance, storytelling, screening, and other activities.