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Creativity in a Changing Climate

D&AD’s White Pencil Lab Experiment – Breaking the Silence

It’s valentines day – what is meant to be the most romantic day of the year for most – and I am heading to the Royal Institute of Great Britain to meet with other fellow creatives and figures in my industry to tackle one of the deepest and some consider the most depressing issue to face the planet; climate change.

You may remember me blogging about the White Pencil Laboratory in June of last year, a seminar held by D&AD which addressed the role of the creative industry in relation to sustainability. There we deliberated how as an industry, both collectively and as individuals, we could use our skills and our relationships with each other and our clients to educate and communicate to work towards a more sustainable future. What emerged from that day was the fact that ironically for an industry which is mostly based on communication – we remain silent on this subject. The reason being – we no longer had the power to lead the client and therefore challenge them. It was Keith weed, Unilever Leadership Executive, who challenged this and said actually we are now in a position to lead rather than just follow and become the example.

Taking this on board, the D&AD  teamed up with Swarm Partnership – a small, collaborative focused on hatching and accelerating innovative ventures that tackle social and environmental challenges – to launch a White Pencil Lab Experiment, Break the Silence. Our aim? To finally break the silence and to ‘prototype ideas that kickstart deeper engagement around climate change from within the creative industry’.  

Break the Silence - Climate change

So here we are, around 150 of us sat in the library of the Royal Institute armed with only markers, flip charts and the odd laptop, determined to take the lead again and show the client (and the world) what we can all do to ensure we have a future as a civilisation. Before any work began, two of the leading heads in the climate change debate: Professor Kevin Anderson – climate change scientist and government advisor and Dr Jonathan Rowson – the Director of the Social Brain Centre at the RSA, talked to us about this subject matter and what a real eye opener this was.

 Kevin Anderson’s presentation was hard hitting and frankly held no punches. He focused his talk on the emission side, explaining that by 2050-2070, our output of emissions will result in the planet being 4°c hotter. Now you may think this is bad as everyone loves a bit of heat. Let me put this in to context; imagine the hottest day of the year last year when people were suffering power cuts and tube signals kept failing and even though it was warm, the weather was really erratic. Well imagine that but 4°c hotter! Here are just a few examples of what WILL happen if we reach 4°c:

– Food shortage due to 40% of the world’s crops dying with some vegetation becoming extinct due to lack of moisture in the soil. Therefore beef, chicken, pork and other everyday sources of protein  will became a rarity as there won’t be enough crops to feed them. This is such massive issue that our Government is currently looking into how to introduce insects into our daily diet because of their high protein level – this is no joke!

– Eco systems such as the corals being extinct leading to the extinction of a large percentage of fish (no more salmon on the 3 for £6 at M&S)

– Power cables not working (so forget having a fridge let alone using the tube)

– More of the erratic weather we have been experiencing lately as well as power storms and black outs

It really starts to sound like a movie scene out of ‘The day After Tomorrow’ and this is likely to happen in our lifetime and definitely in our children’s lifetime. To prevent this situation arising we need to ensure this 4°c increase does not happen. The best way to do this is to stop flying, burning fossil fuels, replace all forms of transport with no emissions options and revert to a more self sustained living – all by 2018.

Our infrastructure and daily lives have become so reliant on these objects, that changing the ways we live and work within 4 years is simply not possible. This is not helped by the fact that eco technology is not yet ready available or affordable. Great! So how are we going to tackle this?!? Dr Jonathan Rowson goes on to discuss his thesis: A New Agenda on Climate Change, explaining the amount of emissions we produce is a direct correspondent to our consumption patterns; the more we consume the more emissions we create. Consumption has become a human behaviour and by simple changing a persons behaviour on a microscopic scale this will lead to bigger changes. Simply put, we need to implant the habits of conscious consumption into everyday, making it part of our daily routine and the best way to do this is through small steps.

Feeling the pit of despair and most of use thinking the ‘end is nigh’, Dan from Swarm steps in reminds us we have only 5 hours left (panic) BUT the point of the day isn’t to come up with the answer to save the world (phew). He reminds us the day is about coming up with ideas which will start deeper engagement within the creative industry, because it is what we do that affects what we consume so how can we start to change this?

Break the Silence

The rest of the day we divide and conquer, segmenting off into small groups (I am part of The Fearsome Floods – I thought appropriate due to the days topic and the recent weather), devising ways, methods, apps and even creating a new agency(!) which can lead the way to change. The diverse approaches we come up with (some sane, some so not) is quite amazing, but one thing did become clear; the answer is just as Jonathan Rowson advised – it’s our own behaviour.

Break the Silence

If we start to look at how we tackle and approach our work both on a client relationship level and internally, making sustainability part of our daily working life then it will lead to it becoming part of the DNA of everything we do and create. There is no one answer which will solve this issue (especially overnight) but there are many ideas that will kick start the process. Yes, if we do not act, the future does look bleak but if we start to act now and make the changes at an individual agency level and collectively work together as an industry at tackling this issue, there is always hope so let’s break the silence and make some noise!

 N.B If you want to know what ideas we came up with, take a peek in the Shed (yes, a shed!) at the D&AD awards. For more information about this check out D&AD The White Pencil or whitepencilswarm.

 Blog written by Jo Steele, designer at Bulletproof London.