How do we motivate people to act on climate change?
In 2019, as news organisations around the world joined the initiative ‘Covering Climate Now’, they framed that title question like this: “How can we tell the story so people get it?”.
The recent Netflix film Don’t Look Up – about how news media and politicians chose to ignore the fact of an asteroid about to hit Earth – seemed to tap into a frequently observed desire to ignore reality when it doesn’t fit into our worldview. For example, 83% of Canadians agree that the Earth is getting warmer, but only 47% believe this will harm them personally.
Framing the emergency
So, how do we improve communications around climate, to engage the public more fully on the need for action?
Academic research identifies a wide array of options, including:
- Constructive hope: how can you frame the challenge so that it leads to a personal conviction of the need to act?
- Personal, relatable, local: the ‘closer to home’ the impacts are the more cut-through they have.
- Everybody’s doing it: or, as one academic opaquely framed it, use ‘descriptive social norms’.
- Green nationalism: appeal to national pride by creating leadership in environmental action.
- Use humour: for example, as one sign at a rally read, ‘The Earth is getting hotter than my boyfriend’.
At the upcoming Anthropy Summit, I’ll be hosting a session that explores this very topic. It asks how to identify the right language around the climate emergency, and invites thoughts from the expert panel, and the audience, on what might be done collectively to achieve cut-through.
The Summit – taking place in early November at the extraordinary Eden Project – goes much further than this session. The Anthropy agenda covers all the themes that are probably preoccupying your professional life: the future of the economy, the places we live, leadership, equity, future generations, land, sea, water and the humanity of our organisations. It will explore new ideas and trigger new initiatives. In all, Anthropy will span 12 stages, 130+ sessions, and over 300 speakers from business, charity and government.
Anthropy will be attended by thought leaders from across the political spectrum, including Rory Stewart MP, Sir Ed Davey MP, Rachel Reeves MP and Sadiq Khan. Business leaders will also be in attendance, including those from John Lewis, EY, salesforce, IPSOS and Coutts Bank. And charities will be present too, including Disaster Emergency Committee, One Young World and the RSA.
In my 40 years in the business, I’ve yet to hear of a similar summit so ably capturing the zeitgeist, and the pent-up demand to create a positive shared future. To find out more about Anthropy and book your place, visit https://anthropy.live/home.
As well as chairing the climate communication session at Anthropy, I will also be delivering a keynote on how human our organisations are. If you’d like a preview of that thinking, you can download the Human Organisation report here.
To discuss anything related to how best to engage your colleagues, customers or citizens on climate action, or to discuss making your organisation more human, just drop me a line at John.Drummond@How-on-Earth.co.uk
Thanks, and I hope to see you at Anthropy!
Chair, Corporate Culture Group