Climate ActionSocial Justice
The Imagine Better Series

Creativity and the Climate with Futerra, Vice Media and BAFTA

A digital event with Futerra, Vice Media and BAFTA

19.11.20Aisha Ayoade

As part of London Climate Action Week 2020, our Co-Founder Solitaire Townsend virtually welcomed two more of Futerra’s brilliant partners –Marsha Cooke, Senior Vice President IMPACT for Vice Media, and Aaron Matthews, Head of Industry Sustainability for BAFTA – for the Imagine Better Series’ third panel session. The focus of this session was focused on how the film, TV, and advertising industries can do so much more to help accelerate climate action at scale.

When it comes to the climate emergency, the creative and advertising industries are not exempt from taking responsibility and action. It is no longer enough for the film, TV, and advertising industries to declare a climate emergency and focus on the carbon footprint of their operations and productions. The true impact of creativity lies in its brainprint – the messages we give airtime to and the cultural norms we set both influence society immensely. A recent OnePulse survey conducted by Futerra showed that 65% of respondents felt that the media talks more about the problems caused by climate change, but 80% of those respondents want to hear the solutions story too. As powerful cultural entities, BAFTA and Vice Media understand the impact of their brainprint and recognise that we all need to do more when telling arguably the most important story of our time: climate change. During this event, they discussed how the creative industries can and must grapple with the story of climate change and compellingly share with their diverse audiences practical solutions to the problem.

Futerra x One Pulse Survey on climate stories
Futerra x One Pulse Survey on climate stories

Here are some of our key highlights:

There is a difference between a story and an education

It goes without saying that the value of a story lies in its impact, on both an individual and a mass level. Vice Media and Albert are exceptionally well placed to talk about how climate news stories must echo into our culture, behaviour and actions. Early in the conversation, they made an important distinction between the significant role that they play not only in identifying and sharing environmental justice and climate stories, but also in the educational responsibility they have in sharing such information, and encouraging other creatives to address climate issues in their content: Albert convenes, trains and works with creatives to identify both the environmental problems within the TV and film industry and the creative ways to solve them. Vice Media not only disseminate information, they also listen to their audience, amplifying the voices of activists and those across the globe who are being impacted today by climate change. Humanising these stories is really crucial because historically environmentalism hasn’t been a factor in the decisions we have made, but now is the time for us all to consider and focus on the future. As Aaron Matthews neatly pointed out, ‘we need to find angles to the climate story that interact with our lives, without that it is all just news – we need that thing which makes it real and gets to our hearts: that is what amplifies these issues’.

‘We need to find angles to the climate story that interact with our lives, without that it is all just news – we need that thing which makes it real and gets to our hearts: that is what amplifies these issues’.

The best stories are layered like an onion

Marsha Cooke urged us all to ‘tell complex stories and not focus on single stories’. The beauty of a story lies in its layers; layers that unfold to reveal more and more content which we can relate to, empathise and identify with. Citing Vice Media’s ‘Tipping Point’ series as a good example of a layered story, Marsha stressed the importance of telling stories of those who are marginalised and unheard: if we keep telling such climate stories in nuanced and complicated ways it can reveal the simple truth that our world, and those of us in it, are all interconnected – as are our efforts. Aaron also spoke of how the stories that have real impact are the ones that echo in different ways and reach different audiences. We must take the limitations we find ourselves facing, and use the climate reality to drive all kinds of narratives that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. ‘Creatives need to join the dots and create the conditions for success’ (Aaron) when profiling important issues and pushing at the old world.

People are hungry not for alternate facts, but alternate solutions

In this age of disinformation – where we have bizarrely normalised distilling really important information into 280 characters – when it comes to climate change, our audiences want solutions, not alternate facts, according to Marsha. It’s not all doom and gloom – the media and creative industries can offer solutions whilst also acknowledging that climate is arguably the most challenging event of our time. Vice Media doesn’t just up the ante on pouring climate efforts into their content, they also hear out their audience as to what climate related issues they are facing and then ask where they need help solving them. In Marsha’s opinion, we can identify not only solutions by listening like this, but we can also identify fact from fiction. Aaron highlighted that there needs to be a greater awareness and training of creatives in the impact of their content and the importance of platforming these issues. We need to help them to question whether certain content or themes normalise sustainable or unsustainable behaviours. It’s about understanding the rules (i.e. legal acts that impel creatives to be sustainable – the Equality Act that by law creatives must deliver a range of content to diverse audiences, for example), as well as the motivations behind platforming certain content.

Watch the full Imagine Better webinar here

A huge thank you to Aaron Matthews, Head of Industry Sustainability for BAFTA, and Marsha Cooke Senior Vice President IMPACT for Vice Media, for their participation and partnership, as well as to our viewers for their probing and inspiring questions.

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