How conversations and messaging can help transform the world

Are you a communication, media, marketing or advertising professional who’s concerned about climate change? You have more power than you might think.

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Image credit: 80 trading 24 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D
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. 

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Image credit: Elijah-O-Donnell Unsplash

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.  

Cally Jackson
Communicators Declare Founder

Join Communicators Declare

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1 https://www.news.com.au/technology/science/animals/half-a-billion-animals-perish-in-bushfires/news-story/b316adb4f3af7b1c8464cf186ab9f52c

2 https://theconversation.com/drought-and-climate-change-were-the-kindling-and-now-the-east-coast-is-ablaze-126750

3 https://theconversation.com/climate-change-is-bringing-a-new-world-of-bushfires-123261

4 https://theconversation.com/how-climate-change-can-make-catastrophic-weather-systems-linger-for-longer-111832

5 https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jan/02/2019-australia-hottest-year-record-temperature-15c-above-average-temperature

6 https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/30798/EGR19ESEN.pdf?sequence=13