Reel to real: Leo-Kate, development, and millennials

Author // Isabella Jhocson Categories // Communicating rice science

I had the opportunity to attend the 2nd Asian Irrigation Forum (AIF2) at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) headquarters a few weeks ago. I am not from the water research department nor am I knowledgeable on irrigation issues, but I do know that (a) we need water or else we die; and (b) IRRI has been developing water-saving technologies for agriculture. I was confused and nervous largely becauseI didn't think I had anything to contribute. Well, I was wrong.

Anyway, these brain farts came about while I was tweeting during the event and interviewing youth farmers from Eastern Visayas in the Philippines.

Fiction to non-fiction. Reel to real.

There are works of fiction that we want to materialize in real life, like, for Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio (yes, the actors, not the characters) to be together. I just want Rose (Kate) and Jack (Leo) to have their love affair not cut so coldly by a giant iceberg (cue in Celine Dion). As much as I want to, it's not going to happen.

I'm flying, Jack scene in Titanic

(Source: Giphy)

“Development” is my Leo-Kate, but the difference between development and my Leo-Kate ship obsession is that, I can do something about this development thing. Leo-Kate? All I can do is watch Titanic and hope for another ending.

Development is a concept that we think we understand, but maybe, not really. It deals with real-life issues such as poverty, overpopulation, unemployment, and malnutrition that have been flagged to us before but are still being raised today. Sure, there are relatively new problems like climate change, but even the phrase was first coined in 1975, meaning, it's old news. We only took notice because its effects are insane, with people’s livelihoods and lives at stake.

Did we take the problem identification step too seriously?

We have our own definitions of development, like that poem about the six blind men of Indostan (a staple and introductory story for new UPLB development communication students). Each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong! The story could also be looked at as development being holistic and inclusive. No one should be left behind.

Easier said than done, right? Development issues are complex. They affect one another and when you solve one issue, there is another that still affects the whole system. We are all familiar with the "vicious cycle of poverty," as an example.

I know what you’re thinking: if issues have been identified and mitigation methods tried, maybe this is unfixable. How do we get out of this funk? Why should we even bother?

The simple answer is because it ultimately concerns you. It concerns all of us. It’s easy to not look beyond our daily activities and see how it will impact our environment in the long run. Humans are inherently reactive and we won’t act until issues kick us straight in the butt.

We are living in a new millennium and, while I’m a self-proclaimed in-denial millennial, we can all take part in this. If you're a millennial reading this thinking, "There’s nothing I can do!", I'm sorry, honey, but you're wrong.

We have means and our activities can help. Millennials are often tagged as self-absorbed, lazy, entitled, and narcissistic (is it our fault that companies started making front-facing cameras and the term “selfie” was coined?). How shall we prove them wrong? (I hope you're with me on this.)

Since social media is our weapon of choice, what can we do with it? Here are a few ideas:

1. Read and keep yourself informed.

Try to be a little more proactive.

I know that headline on Miley and Liam’s reengagement is more appealing to click but trust me, you’ll do this world a bigger favor if you read that story on food security or climate change. Hit like or comment and have it appear on your friends’ news feeds. Yay for social media algorithms!

You can always read about Liam and Miley after.

A habit I also acquired in college is to read postings on bulletin boards when I’m waiting for my classes to start. It also helps that I’m naturally curious.

2. When in doubt, ask.

There’s no harm in asking questions! And don’t be afraid to ask the important ones. It could get controversial when you hit the target, but at least you got your point across. Just don’t forget to be polite.
It was only two years ago when I finally asked what the difference is between global warming and climate change. Thanks to Google, I got more confused.

Thanks to my supervisor, I was able to understand it. See? Nothing wrong with asking. At least you asked. The beauty is in the attempt!

3. Spread it out.

Communicate. Share what you know. Social media has allowed us to have our own platforms, our own podiums to speak out and share what matters to us.

Popularize terms. Speak and write in a way that is relatable to others. It’s okay to throw jargon here and there, but remember that your goal is to be heard and understood, not to impress.

Development jargons are nice, but while they sometimes sound flowery and happy, tdon’t. If you want to be heard, you have to speak in a way that is understood by everyone. It’s not about dumbing it down (I’m looking at you smart shamers and pop-culture shamers! Why do we keep shaming others anyway?), it’s about resonating to others. It’s easy to be misunderstood nowadays.


I say we push for change. Let's demand for change. I sound so heroic, don’t I? But see, development is the sector that hopes for all of us. Who will do the moving? It’s nice to see Kate and Leo fall in love in the big screen; wouldn’t it be perfect if they do in real life, too?

2009 Golden Globes - Kate Winslet thank-you speech

Aww, stop it. No, don't stop. (Source: Giphy)

In the same way, wouldn’t it be nice if we engage, get involved, and have our hopes materialize in real life?


About the Author

Isabella Jhocson

Isabella Jhocson

Isabella Jhocson is an in-denial millennial and online content specialist at IRRI. She's into photography, blogging, young adult fiction, and '90s boy bands. Someone once told her that she is full of existential angst.

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