ALERT sent out its first press release on the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia on December 15, 2013....and now 6 months later there is lots to celebrate.
This really is much more exciting than tired cats at a party but celebrating ALERT's successes does come with mixed emotions.
A quick skim of our latest blog entries doesn't show many good-news stories for environmental conservation (except for deforestation slowing in some countries). And while the bad-news stories keep piling up, they reinforce why ALERT and its goals are so important.
Since that first press release, ALERT has grown in many exciting ways:
1) ALERT's core-group of world-class researchers and scientists has grown considerably.
2) The ALERT blog, Issues and Research Highlights, maintains a readership of 2,000 people per month and has been read by people from 130 different countries.
3) Through Facebook, ALERT is mobilizing conservation research and commentary to a readership of over 8,000 readers per week.
4) ALERT press releases are sent to 1,200 media contacts and prominent environmental freelance writers. Our contact database has doubled in these first 6 months!
5) On Facebook, Twitter, and in blog comments, many people are discussing environmental conservation issues and have access to cutting-edge research thanks to ALERT's reporting and presence within the social media landscape.
All of these accomplishments are worth celebrating. Hooray! Woof! Meow!
These accomplishments speak to ALERT's growth online, but ALERT is far more than a knowledge-mobilization pathway.
After ALERT issued its press release about the Leuser Ecosystem, we joined efforts with a coalition of NGOs to urge the Indonesian government to declare the imperiled Leuser region a World Heritage site. The Aceh government in northern Sumatra had proposed to construct hundreds of kilometers of new roads and clear tens of thousands of hectares of forest in the region.
Several petitions circulated soon after ALERT's press release, all of which cited ALERT scientists. The most successful petition gathered 47,155 signatures from people around the world in support of protecting the forest.
One month after ALERT’s press release, PT Kallista Alam, an Indonesian logging company was held accountable for illegally burning forests within the Tripa Peat Swamps, part of the Leuser ecosystem. The court’s ruling resulted in a sentence of 114 billion Rupiah, approximately 9 million US dollars.
Additionally, another recent court ruling found a government official guilty of issuing illegal logging permits and he was subsequently sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment.
These are strong messages of improved law enforcement against environmental offenders in the region -- and successes for all organizations involved in advocating for the protection of this crucial habitat.
Part of the strategic impact of ALERT's press releases is that they are targeted to key media contacts.
When ALERT issued a press-release against plans to push a major railroad and eight feeder roads into the Chitwan National park in Nepal, ALERT representatives were among the first to bring attention to the issue and claimed the development “could be environmentally devastating, given the potential for increased fragmentation, disturbance and poaching of the park’s wildlife.” ALERT’s press release garnered global media attention from Radio Australia, Mongabay, and The Ecologist, among others.
So, while conservation challenges are coming thick and fast, it is important to celebrate the steps we have taken. As we glance back over our shoulders, we know we are fighting the good fight, and can take a moment to enjoy the view. And then we can get back to navigating the potholes and promises of tomorrow.
-Ellen Field, ALERT media strategist