Last week 10:10, an international network of individuals, organisations and businesses pledging to reducing their emissions by 10% in the year 2010, released a promotion video that has turned out to be a public relations and communications disaster. It showed three different groups – schoolchildren, staff and a football team- discussing what they would do to reduce their emissions. In each case those people who said they were not interested were told “No pressure, you don’t have to get involved”, and were then blown up by high explosives, splattering blood all over the set. Ho ho!
I know the 10:10 team well and respect their commitment and dedication. Clearly their aim was to avoid the usual worthy moralism of green campaigns and produce something cool, funny and edgy. Unfortunately, with unerring skill, the video played directly to a range of current denial tropes about climate change being a fanatic belief system that aggressively silences dissent. The emerging compound ‘eco-fascist’ has appeared regularly in the feverish commentary on denier blogs. Especially maladroit was the metaphorical association with Islamic fundamentalism (one of the parodies currently circulating has the teacher dubbed into Arabic blowing up the school kids for refusing to believe in Allah).
There are lots that could be said here- not least that climate change has now become so polarised and accrued such a range of associations and meanings that all communications must be carefully thought through and, above all, thoroughly tested before release.
And in that spirit I pass to Annie Levy who invites readers to advance the discussion surrounding this film by asking: what would a really good ad have looked like?- over to you Annie
I spent the weekend, as many of us did, with a pit in our collective stomachs about the egregious mistake 10:10 allowed in releasing the mini-film No Pressure. How it all went wrong, all the various ways the message was disturbing and damaging—oh, we’ve talked and written reams among ourselves.
But it’s a sunny Monday morning and I’m thinking the opportunity in this crisis is that we can open a discussion about communication and how to do it better.
- We agree with the 10:10 team that the ante needs to be upped, and that perhaps our polite, consensus- seeking methods have been effective in educating but limited in inspiring rapid change.
We feel urgency, but we know emergency-talk (“climate-porn”) turns many people off.
We know that people who don’t identify as green don’t take on “green” issues.
We know that putting climate change into the future or across oceans delays immediate, local response.
We know that climate science has been politicized across the ideological divide, and it’s tiring battling deniers.
Essentially, we know that different messages speak to different people.
So let’s say we were well-resourced in talent, as is 10:10, and could ask top-professionals to produce and distribute messages with high–production values (or not maybe?)—what stories would we tell, how might we do it better? How can we be effective climate communicators and agents of change? We agree that we want to push the discourse further, shake off the science-deniers, get effective action from government, create rapid social transformation at all the necessary levels. How are we going to do it?
Having set an agenda, I will write the first comment:
“One thing I disliked about No Pressure was that it directed anger at individuals when in fact we are all collectively culpable, even when we take our carbon-reducing baby-steps such as 10:10. And yet, small steps and sacrifices, often at the level of consumption, are presented as our only power. I would like to see a film that pushes the issue of personal responsibility for climate forward by making heros of ordinary people who put themselves on the line facing politicians and corporations, whether through verbal challenge or non-violent direct action, so that we are all emboldened to demand change not just in our own lives but in wider social and economic realms.” — Annie Levy
So send in your ideas. I would like to keep the discussion focused, so please keep on topic and provide positive messaging ideas.