Stories have heroes and villains, and they have clear timeline, we know when the fight started and when the battle was won. This is not the case with sustainability or climate change as they do not have such clarity… why? Because we are feeling the effects differently and in different ways. For example, we are told that a hurricane in the Philippines is a direct result of climate change but how exactly and why is it connected? is not clear to us. Its becasue the climate change story is so vague and complicated, we are not able to relate to it, not in the same way as we did when Covid-19 swept the world and turned it upside down.
In his book Jonathan Safran Foer, We are the Weather, he explained that when people can clearly visualise the victim of a tragedy, they are more likely to sympathize and donate money to them. Millions are affected by climate change and sustainability issues and millions more people will be affected in the future. This means there is no specific victim that people can resulting in them finding it harder to feel emotionally connected.
If you imagine your child is about to fall from the tree what would be your immediate reaction? Run and try to prevent them from falling. This is how we as humans are wired, to react to the immediate threat and not one that we can see or know when it is coming. Even more problematic Foer found that we as humans are not good at remembering the past because we are designed to adapt to change so much so that we sometime do not realise that things are changing. Think world war two or economic crisis in 2018.
Another reason climate change is difficult to fight and communicate is due to the incorrect and incomplete information we have on the matter. For example, for decades we focused on fossil fuels being the villain but, there are other industries that are causing similar harm such as industrial animal farming and agriculture equating for 24% of harmful greenhouse emissions in comparison to the 25% emitted by fossil fuels for example.
The above summary highlights why communicating climate change is difficult, but it also demonstrates that we can still communicate it and have a role in saving our planet… now that we understood the psychological behaviour of why we as citizens are not taking part in saving our planet. The power of story telling is powerful so use it to help your audience to visualise the threat and tell the story in way that your readers are the real heroes. In doing so you are putting the ball in their court and they are the ones who will determine how the story ends.
Communique specialises in communicating Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) strategies. Our work has impacted 150K employees, 200k customers and resulted in £300M investment deals completed. If you need help gaining buy-in from your leadership team or designing your ESG communication strategy get in touch