Using your skills for the greater good

By | 2017-08-22T20:33:43+00:00 November 13th, 2015|Partners|0 Comments

In this blog, Steph Newman from activist group 1 Million Women explores how creative industries and educators can use their skills to support climate action.


As part of my role on the social media team at Australian NGO 1 Million Women, I’m often in touch with scientists, climate experts and politicians.

This you would expect: these are the people we consider to have the most influence when it comes to inspiring and enacting change when it comes to reducing our global carbon footprint.

However, I also spend a significant chunk of my working day getting in touch with a different group of people all together: those in the creative industries.

So far in 2015 I’ve worked with sculptors, weavers, poets and architects. I’ve chatted with chefs, been on the phone to farmers and engaged with engineers. It’s the highlight of my work, as these individuals tend to be optimistic, passionate about what they do, and wholeheartedly committed to raising awareness about our rapidly warming planet.

Above: Kevina-Jo Smith, an artist we’ve worked with here at 1 Million Women (Photo credit Louisa Clayton)

But are these sorts of collaborations effective?

The driving force behind these collaborations with creative thinkers is that it’s a mutually beneficial strategy:

  •      Creatives, especially those who are young, in a social minority or just starting up in the industry, benefit from the exposure. For example, a young poet we profiled had hundreds of visits to her YouTube channel after her story was put out across our social media channels.
  •      Social issues such as climate change can often be the source of inspiration for creative thinkers, so often they’re already on board with supporting us before we even approach them. I’ve worked with around a dozen visual artists who have designed works around the idea of the impact that global warming has on the planet.
  •      Engaging people on an issue such as climate change can be difficult. It’s scary and more often than not, it involves having to communicate some frightening statistics of the rate at which we’re destroying our world. When you bring some colour, clever design and even humour into the equation, the general public seems happier to engage with content that might otherwise receive little to no attention.  

Above: Photographer Calum York’s image of Los Angeles showing massive amounts of air pollution over the city

There’s also a benefit for the general public, namely, they are able to receive education on environmental issues that might otherwise be off their radar.

We know that in order to see intergenerational and long-lasting action on environmental issues, education is the key.

From projects such as Vietnam’s “Farming kindergarten” to evidence of how daughters can impact the level of social advocacy in their fathers, exposing people to information from reliable sources is fundamental for creating a global population that is able to engage with social issues.

Lack of education when it comes to climate change is increasingly not tolerated in the public sphere. In fact, Associated Press this year instructed journalists to use the terms “climate change doubters” or “those who reject mainstream climate science” in favour of  “sceptics” or “deniers”. This represents a fundamental shift in how we think about those unwilling to acknowledge the reality of environmental harm at the hands of humans.

Again, this is why I like to work with creative thinkers.

Think of creativity as an amplifier for our messages: creativity helps us to reach so much further, educate so many more people, and communicate across language barriers, age groups and thousands of kilometres.

If you’re an educator, you’ll likely already know the power of creative thinking in the classroom. Imagine if that could be applied to the global population. If you’re yet to be convinced, take a look at ground-breaking projects such as The Fun Theory which demonstrates beautifully and simply that sparking curiosity through creativity can truly transform the actions of others.

My message to you: To ensure the future health of this planet, we need to raise creative thinkers who are able to develop out-of-the-box strategies for enacting change. Regardless of the social issue in question, creativity is so often the spoonful of sugar that helps the oh-so-difficult medicine go down.

Go forth and inspire creative thinkers. Empower them to work with social organisations to enact positive change. Remind them of their value to the future of our planet.

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Stephanie Newman is a social media assistant at 1 Million Women, and has been pursuing a low waste lifestyle since January this year. Her mottos to live by are: ‘make do and mend’, ‘less stuff, more life’.