My Dad was a pilot. When I was young he flew a plane called a Vickers Viscount with four turbo-prop engines. If I was flying with him, I was allowed to sit in the cockpit for take-off.
As soon as the plane was airborne, my Dad, and the First Officer, and Flight Engineer would light up.
Most of the passengers over 18 would smoke in the cabin, and the ‘hosties’, that is what they were called back then, would smoke away in the galley, between serving drinks.
The fact that you could not see much at the end of the flight didn’t appear to trouble anyone, not even the mothers with little ones.
My folks would have dinner parties with china ashtrays and cigarette holders and Ronson lighters at every place, for their guests to light up between courses. All completely normal.
But can you even imagine it today?
Is it possible then, that our children and theirs will write stories like this about the way we used fossil fuel to power energy; the waste of food; the profligate use of plastic; the clogged oceans; poisoned waterways; and our consumerism, with the same head-shaking disbelief that it could ever have been so?
And will these stories be redemptive? As in look what could have happened had we not understood in time what was happening? I hope so.
Are you a communication, media, marketing or advertising professional who’s concerned about climate change? You have more power than you might think.
As I consider my goals for the new decade, it’s impossible for me to ignore that huge parts of my country are on fire, and have been for months now. Capital cities are shrouded in smoke, and an estimated 500 million animals have died1.
Scientists have made it very clear – our rapidly warming climate is exacerbating every risk factor for more ferocious and frequent bushfires2,3. The same can be said for other extreme weather events, like the ‘unusually prolonged’ flood that devastated Townsville in early 20194. Or the fact that Australia just experienced its hottest year on record5.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word ‘unprecedented’ as often as I did last year, and it’s clear to me that what we’ve seen here in Australia is exactly what the scientists have been warning us about for decades. Climate change is here, now, and unless we change our course urgently, it’s going to get much worse (and then worse still).
It’s easy to feel helpless in the face of an issue that is so multi-faceted and complex. What can I do about it, as a relatively inconsequential mum of two young children, working full time in a role unrelated to climate change or environmental issues?
What can I do about it? More than you might think.
And if you have a voice, the same applies to you.
In a recent report, the United Nations Environment Programme stated that, “Deep-rooted shifts in values, norms, consumer culture and world views are inescapably part of the great sustainability transformation [required to decarbonise the global economy and mitigate climate change].”6
For these shifts to take place, we need as many voices as possible to start questioning our current values, norms and worldviews. We can all do this, every day, and every conversation will help. Collectively, we create our culture, through our behaviours, our conversations, and our customs that go unquestioned. Let’s all start questioning, and shifting the dial.
And if you work in media, communication, marketing or advertising, you have a particularly valuable opportunity, because our professions have a disproportionate impact on norms and consumer culture.
News articles in The Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Cairns Post, The Guardian and the ABC.Advertisements by Coca Cola, Myer, BHP and Woolworths. Media releases by Aldi, Thiess, Nike, and Flight Centre. Internal messages to staff of government departments, construction companies, food chains, hotels and law firms….
Imagine if the creators, enablers and amplifiers of all these messages downed tools. Imagine if they all committed to not lending their skills to anything that unquestioningly supports the status quo or conflicts with the ‘deep rooted shifts’ required to support ‘the great sustainability transformation’. Imagine the impact that could have.
Culture change will take time, but we need to get that ball rolling. And I truly believe that the media, communication, marketing or advertising industries will play a big part in this.
That’s why I founded Communicators Declare, a movement for professionals who want to actively support the great sustainability transformation and help create a better future for us all.
As a new decade starts – which some are calling the Climate Decade – I encourage you to ask yourself a few questions:
What values am I promoting through my messages?
What kind of world am I helping to create?
When I look back at the end of this decade, will I be happy with the impact my messages have had on the world?
If I won’t be happy, what can I do to improve my impact?
These are difficult but essential questions for all of us in media, marketing, communication and advertising. Collectively, we have great power – let’s use it wisely.
Harnessing the power of the communication, marketing, media and advertising industries to help humanity transition to a low carbon future
Are you a communication, media, marketing or advertising professional? Do you recognise that biodiversity loss and climate breakdown are two of the most serious issues of our time?
You can make a difference by signing the declaration and joining a growing movement of professionals who are actively supporting humanity’s transition to a low carbon future, through our messages, actions and influence.
Words matter. The pen is mightier than the sword, and our industries hold great influence over the messages that reach the public and the projects that gain social licence.
We craft, promote and sell messages that are read and/or viewed by millions and help to shape our culture, values and future.
While the direct carbon and environmental footprint of our industries may be small compared to other industries, our choices are not.
Let’s harness our collective power to build momentum for transformational change and a better future for us all.
Members of the Communicators Declare Movement will:
Not work on projects or initiatives that conflict with the necessity to mitigate climate breakdown and biodiversity loss. (Note: we understand that projects and initiatives can be complex and often have both positive and negative consequences. We trust in people’s individual capacity to assess whether a project or initiative has a positive or negative climate and ecological impact overall.)
Raise awareness of the biodiversity crisis and climate emergency and the urgent need for action in our networks. (This can be done in a professional or personal capacity.)
Share stories of success as individuals, organisations, companies and governments make positive climate and biodiversity choices, building hope and optimism in humanity’s collective ability to provide a healthy, liveable planet for future generations. (This can be done in a professional or personal capacity.)