What I'm hearing Commissioners, producers and funders in the TV and film industry want to get more "climate content" onto our screens. How they define climate content varies. It can:
raise awareness about specific issues related to climate change / climate justice
enable constructive conversations about how to adapt and change
inspire changes in attitude towards sustainable lifestyles
encourage pro-environmental behaviour.
All while fulfilling the expectations of the chosen format, whether that's drama, documentary, comedy or reality TV, as well as attracting the desired audience. It's a challenge - but there's plenty of enthusiasm (and potentially investment) available. There's a window of opportunity to trigger a cultural shift in favour of the environment and sustainable living - IF we understand the psychology of telling effective stories about climate change. There is much we can do with scripts already in development, as well as creating brand new storylines in the future.
How I help With my customary stubborn optimism, I believe humans can fix the mess we've made of the environment and do it within an appropriate timeframe so that we don't lose everything. I'm pointing at white humans living in capitalist societies when I say that. Spoiler alert: it means starting the shift to sustainability today and living through a deeply uncomfortable (and for many, potentially life-threatening) period of human history, featuring regular amounts of disruption and distress.
How to start that action towards sustainable living, maintain it in the face of very difficult circumstances, and be in a fit state to enjoy the outcome at the end of it all, is a deeply complex journey as far as our psychology goes. I don't have all the answers. But I do have some answers, based on the current research, and I'm here to help by sharing, coaching and advising.
Here's some examples of how I think "climate content" can be defined and be effective:
We need hope, resilience and other effective coping strategies for the bad stuff that's coming up like anxiety, depression and grief. Let's share visions of what we're working towards - a gloriously imperfect but nature-rich world where we're still pinged by apps every five minutes but now they count carbon footprints not steps, for example. Let's show characters being knocked sideways by difficult feelings, and how they get through it. Let's normalise having conversations about this stuff and acknowledge that disruption and the changing climate are part of our lives already.
We need to get angry (or, if you're a Brit like me, really quite cross). Anger's a great emotion for instigating pro-environmental action IF it's channelled constructively. Constructive anxiety is also really good - aim for "I'm worried, but I'm not overwhelmed". Let's show the human (and more-than-human) cost of what we're doing BUT let's not create the televisual equivalent of doomscrolling. Let's get the structure right, the characters empathetic, the story compelling - and direct the energy generated into a focused impact campaign promoting a range of activities contributing to the solution.
We need to nurture our "environmental identity" - our relationship with the environment and more-than-human living things. My research has found that a strong environmental identity is the greatest motivator towards pro-environmental behaviour (compared to being told to do something by an activist or someone else). Let's help people connect to that inner eco-lover by normalising being out in nature - not as an explorer or wannabe commando, but as ourselves, leading our regular lives, just outside in green space. Let's subvert stereotypes about the kind of people who care for the environment - there'll always be space for tree-hugging hippies but the majority of us are more likely to want to hang out with the crime-fighting detective who does a litter pick on their local beach in their downtime. Let's acknowledge the conflict between expressing our environmental identity and living our daily lives in a fossil-fuelled, capitalist society and show ways to resolve that conflict.
I could go on for days like this, I'd better stop otherwise you won't need to hire me.
When to contact me Contact me whenever you like, a chat online or over coffee about this stuff is always a pleasure to me. But more specifically:
when you're working on your strategy for creating climate content, or you have an idea that you want to make more "climatey", or you have a climatey idea but want a point of view on whether it works psychologically to get the desired impact.
When you're applying for funding and you want to authentically tick the boxes about climate content.
When you're developing a script and want a point of view on whether it works for the audience impact you're hoping for, and not triggering any unintended emotional responses.
I'll need to charge money for my time at some point, and I'm very comfortable talking about that too.