Friday, 7 December 2012

Sushi anyone?

It's not specifically related to climate change, but I think this Surfrider campaign illustrates their message in a powerful way. The contrast of the delicate foodstuff with waste is a visceral reminder of the contamination of seafood. I have a feeling that the image might well come back to haunt you just before tucking into that plate of sushi you've just ordered... Although this "disgust" reaction might be more effective at stopping people from eating seafood, rather than their intended "call to action" (look at this website).

Friday, 5 October 2012

As the World Tipped

I've just been reading about an "aerial theatre" performance called As the World Tipped. The show apparently uses a vertical stage - with actors suspended using harnesses and wires. It seems to use back projection and music and, yes, dangling actors, to tell an apocalyptic story based on themes of climate change and bureaucracy:

While the gimmick of the tilting stage may or may not be to your tastes, I found it interesting to see some of the lengths that producers will go to to attract attention on these issues. I think the themes of the performance also highlight an increasing frustration felt by some artists and communicators about the slow progress from official organisations.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Climate CoLab at MIT

Over at MIT in the US, a project called Climate CoLab is investigating the power of online collaboration to suggest "what to do about climate change". The resulting website is somewhere between a moderated discussion forum and a voting tool for ideas to combat global warming:

I wonder what kind of people contribute to such projects - I'm assuming it will mostly be people who are very strongly engaged with climate change already, and as such it must be challenging to involve a representative group of people in discussion / voting activity.

Further information, and some working papers linked to the project are available here:

They do note that initially, some unrealistic ideas (such as reducing emissions by 99% in all countries by 2050%) tended to get the most votes (which may give some suggestions about the kind of people that are involved in voting). They have worked around this by getting expert climate scientists to review the suggestions and provide a shortlist for voting, however.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Climate Challenge puts the player in the hot seat

I've had a few "educational" computer games inflicted on me in my time. I have to admit, however, to enjoying this free flash game, commissioned by the BBC and made by Red Redemption games, in consultation with researchers at Oxford University:

It's starting to look a little dated now (it was made in 2006), but it is still an interesting way of giving the player a new perspective on the struggles of decision-makers trying to balance economy, environment, resources and popularity.

I found that my political views and opinions definitely affected the policies I chose. There were times when it would have made sense, game-wise, to invest in intensive farming to get more food, but it wasn't something I wanted to do... I also wonder how much the political leanings of the creators affected the values assigned to the different policies - particularly when talking about how 'popular' different things would be.

I've also downloaded a full game by the same authors, but haven't found time to play it much yet:

Monday, 16 July 2012

chalking up a street's energy usage

This chalk stencil approach has been used in Brighton to show the average daily energy use of a street, compared to the Brighton average. An interesting way of making the invisible visible - something that I believe information graphics are particularly good at.

More details here:

Monday, 14 May 2012

Rio +20 animation

I've just been sent a link to an animation called Rio+20: Turn the Tide for Our Ocean, by Pew and ZSL.

The narrative begins with an idealised future, setting up for a stark comparison to the current state of our oceans. The piece is obviously intended as a call to action for those at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, urging them to make the choices that lead to the ideal future presented at the start of the video. Nice to see some very positive messaging out there.

Video here:

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A better day the 100 way

The team behind the German project "Ein Guter Tag hat 100 Punkten" (A better day has 100 points) have recently released a (mostly) English version of their site. The idea is to show how people could live sustainably, with a budget of 100 "points" of greenhouse gas emissions. They've tried to set their scale so that if everyone used only 100 "points", the global temperature would remain constant (at current population levels). They plan to adjust the points values in line with scientific developments and population growth.

The strength of the idea is in its simplicity. While there are of course gaps in their lists of products and activities, it is a good start for anyone interested in knowing about their contribution to climate change. They also produce simple stickers that can be used to put on different products and objects. They tell me that these are particularly popular with schoolchildren.

Their site is here:
You can use it to look up the "points" value of specific items, calculate and store the value for your day, or order the stickers that you can use to spread the word...

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Imagining Change: Coastal Conversations

I've just been sent a link to the following film, produced for the Planet Under Pressure conference in London earlier this year,  to showcase AHRC* work. It features three different projects, showing different "creative engagements" with the theme of coastal change:

Interesting to see yet more ways of explaining scientific data to a wider audience through varied artistic media.

*Arts and Humanities Research Council

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

How to talk to a climate change denier

While the CCC group has so far focussed on media communication, there is also a lot that can be said about effective individual-level communication. Susan Lancaster from Helson has just sent me an excellent video of George Marshall (from explaining how he recommends approaching conversations with climate change sceptics (or, as he prefers, "dissenters"). Some of the ideas he has could well be applied to media-based communication as well as individual-level conversations. You can see the full video here, which I highly recommend:

However, if you can't spare 20 minutes to watch this, here's a very brief summary of what he says:

1) Common Ground
People's views are more likely to be changed by their peers - people that they share something in common with. Show them that you have something in common - family, politics, faith, passions. Psychologists know this as the theory of social norms.

2) Respect
Treat them with respect. Don't criticise the sources of their information, or try to make them feel guilty. This will just lead to unproductive arguments.

3) Hold your views
Quite okay to say what views you have, and why you have them. Say that you've found the overwhelming scientific opinions convincing. No-one can argue with what your own views are.

4) Personal journey
Talk about how you came to these views. Was there a time when you didn't think about energy consumption or CO2 emissions? How did you come to feel differently? Perhaps having children has made you think more about the kind of world that future generations will inhabit? Things that your audience might identify with will be helpful.

5) Fits worldview
Everyone has their worldview. They frame their world based on their life experiences (parents, location, family situation, faith, etc). As a generalisation, climate dissenters tend to be male, older, and with conservative politics. These people often have certain values - they feel that people that work hard at building a career and a family are entitled to certain rewards for their efforts. They can see climate change as an attack on them, changing the rules that they are used to, limiting the level of consumption that they have spent their whole lives working up to, and are just starting to realise.

6) Offer rewards
Talk about positive experiences that you have had as a result of changing your behaviour. Try and link these to values that fit their worldview - often those based on community, family and social life. You could talk about holidays where you have had a more enjoyable time without flying - or the health benefits of active transport.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

climate and weather

Another example of the use of humour for communication. This time we have Armstrong and Miller mocking a well-known social trend (as well as the classic British stereotype of obsession with the weather).

Monday, 5 March 2012

Changing Habbits

The Changing Habbits website ( features an interesting way of providing motivation for low carbon lifestyles - linked to body image. Like many other carbon footprinting tools, it allows you to enter details about your routine use of energy and resources, and gives you an overview of the data. However, it is more unusual in the way it presents this data - an image of a person (your "Habbit") with certain body parts distorted according to your GHG emissions. In a society in which body image is so important, could the shape of a virtual online representation of yourself (or avatar) encourage lower carbon emissions?

Thanks to Sarah Bell, one of the PhD students at our Centre for Environment and Human Health, for the link.

Friday, 17 February 2012

The Fun Theory

Before the recent meeting of the CCC group, Matt Hocking, Director of the Leap graphic design agency, sent us a link to this short video:

The video demonstrates the principle that fun can be a powerful motivator for behaviour change. In this example, people are encouraged to choose the stairs over the escalator. When making that choice, they are unaware of the environmental and health benefits of their choice, thinking only of their desire to experience walking on the novel piano-stairs. Of course, this example may be a short-term benefit, but it demonstrates a valuable principle that could be applied to other climate change-related communications. It may be that your message does not need to be communicated directly - people can be encouraged to change their behaviour for reasons that are different to, but compatible with, your intentions.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Feedback from The Business of CCC

We are extremely grateful for your feedback after the meeting on the 24th Jan – it is paramount to the development of the forum.

The event was seen as a really good opportunity to get a dialogue going between academics and businesses. A number of delegates found it useful to gain a better understanding of processes and activities occurring outside their current specialisms and sectors.

It was felt that more time was necessary for more productive networking, and we will ensure that this is the case in future sessions. In addition to this we would like to explore different ways to capitalise on the huge potential in the room and build on really stimulating, creative thinking.

The challenges and opportunities that Climate Change brings are vast. We are keen to continue investigating together how communication and innovative application of technology can, and must, be used to share and transmit information.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Group discussions from CCC business meeting

It was great to have such a varied audience at the workshop and discussions around some very interesting-sounding research proposals. It felt like a valuable chance to bring businesses and academics together to consider how heightened awareness of climate change achieved through innovative communication methods could bring mutual benefits to both the business and research agendas.

All delegates attending represented one of three ‘roles’:
1) Message - Organisations with a product or service related to sustainability or low carbon.
2) Transmit - Organisations expert in communication – such as marketing, media, design agencies.
3) Study - Researchers and Academics from across the Peninsula.

Delegates were asked to form groups to discuss communication needs and dissemination methods, in relation to climate change. The task was to establish how enhanced communication could impact on organisations where climate change is a driver for their business (e.g. renewables, sustainable transport, waste treatment). To do so, the identification of the organisation’s key audience/s was crucial. The aim was to provide a platform for discussions around innovative problem solving, drawing on the breadth of experience and skills of the delegates - bringing businesses, academics and community groups together.

Having reviewed the videos and worksheets from the event, we are pleased to present some brief summaries of each group's outcomes. It was quite challenging to summarise some of the complex ideas expressed, so any amendments or clarification from group members would be welcomed.

We would also welcome further discussions of these ideas. Comments can be left on this post, or contact us directly here:

Group 1: Community-level energy decisions

Message Communities can take responsibility for their energy needs at a local level. While political decisions are often short-term, local communities can consider long term needs.

Audience Business and domestic energy users, within communities (at a local parish scale).

Transmission method Appeal to local advocates, encourage them to set up monthly meetings. Show what individuals stand to gain through independent energy security.

Idea for supporting study Social theory study - on deliberative democracy. Take Japanese model of community-level decision-making on waste disposal, and study how and whether such models might be used in other societies, such as within Cornwall.

Group 2: The complete carbon footprint of food

Message The carbon emissions caused by food production - from supply chain to preparation and cooking.

Audience Young families and manufacturers

Transmission method Multi-channel: TV, internet, radio. Celebrity-based? Tie in with schools. Give cooking instructions, but with break-out points to show the source of food. Children then influence decision-making within families.

Idea for supporting study Monitoring supermarket behaviour. Will the campaign influence what they do?

Group 3: Lifetime carbon emissions for buildings

Message The majority of carbon emissions from a building are produced at a low level throughout their lifespan - not just during the building phase itself.

Audience Builders and developers, but also Cornwall Council. Individuals that use buildings tend to understand more than decision-makers do at the moment.

Transmission method Begin by studying the audience, to avoid wasting money by not targetting them properly. After this, a media company can be involved, and should use multiple media channels rather than isolating one.

Idea for supporting study Study of information wastage - what information is being transmitted, and what is wasted? Also possibilities for narrative research - harnessing the power of individual's stories to affect and engage.

Group 4: Experiment: low carbon communities with health, wealth and happiness

Message Experimenting or discussing larger issues is more important than communicating messages

Audience No audience as such, but the experiment would happen with small, local communities.

Transmission method -

Idea for supporting study How can we create wealth, health and happiness while lowering CO2, through local actions? Cornwall has low incomes and high happiness. The experiment would compare this with different communities around the globe - similar situation in parts of South America?

Group 5: involving communities in renewable energy projects

Message Local communities can influence the way they manage their energy needs. Projects such as wind turbine construction are able to generate income and energy security for the community.

Audience Potential energy users to begin with. As projects mature, they will need to engage members of community to make decisions on how to spend income from renewable energy projects.

Transmission method Local radio and websites (funded by income from projects?). Involve local schools and clubs/societies.

Idea for supporting study Could form the basis of a PhD project on behavioural change.

Group 6: Involving volunteers in battery recycling

Message Promoting involvement in volunteer-led battery and fluorescent light bulb recycling schemes. Minimal effort can provide large impacts.

Audience Potential advocates - those who already feel indignant about landfill of dangerous and/or valuable materials.

Transmission method Describe what it would be like without volunteer-led schemes. Market research on which message resonates more strongly: wasting valuable materials, or the potential effects of harmful toxins from landfill of batteries and fluorescent light bulbs. Encourage lobbying of government by organisations carrying out such projects.

Idea for supporting study Assessing the effects of educational packages for primary and secondary schools. These would cover energy, battery use, material recovery and product life cycles. Also, studies of the environmental impacts of landfill for batteries and fluorescent bulbs would be beneficial.

Group 7: Encouraging healthy and/or sustainable lifestyles

Message Creating healthy and sustainable communities, through healthy and/or sustainable lifestyles

Audience Children / NHS service users

Transmission method A range of media should be used - newsletters in church and hobby groups, but also new media for forum creation. Should be participatory - people are part of the process themselves.

Idea for supporting study Focus groups can be used to determine barriers to healthy lifestyles. What is stopping them from eating healthier food and doing exercise? The results of such studies can inform the project, making communication more specific and targetted.

Taking it further
Do you want to take one of these ideas further? Please contact:

Dr Will Stahl-Timmins -

Thursday, 2 February 2012

CCCbiz meeting

The European Centre for Environment and Human Health hosted an interdisciplinary business/academic event at the end of January 2012. The aim was to bring together creative and environmentally-focussed businesses in Cornwall with academics from across the Peninsula, to network and share ideas. The focus was to explore how enhanced communication methods and academic expertise could impact on organisations where climate change is a driver for their business (e.g. renewables, sustainable transport, waste treatment).

40 delegates attended, representing a great breadth of sectors and specialities. These people largely fitted into one of three areas:

1) Message - Organisations with a product or service related to sustainability or low carbon

2) Transmit - Organisations expert in communication – such as marketing, media, design agencies

3) Study - Researchers and academics from across the Peninsula with knowledge related to climate change communication

Many attendees provided examples of their work to assist with introducing them. These are provided below, by category:

Ella Westland
Community energy group (Transition St Goran)

Ella Westland was introduced using the above image, showing the first wind turbine installed by the community energy group (Transition St Goran), which she has been involved with. Links to two videos related to this are available here:

Mark Hatwood
CoBRA (Community Battery Recycling Alliance)

Mark Hatwood was introduced with the above image, showing the way that the CoBRA scheme gives volunteers the opportunity to assist in collecting batteries (and fluorescent light bulbs) from their community for recycling.

Hannah Bullock
Eden Project

Hannah Bullock chose to be introduced with the above image, from a Clear About Carbon project. This web tool can show the carbon dioxide impact behind everyday items and lifestyle choices. The tool is available here: What's Your Carbon Footprint?

Tom James
Senior Research and Evaluation Officer
Clear About Carbon

Tom James presented us with this image of the Carbon Literacy exhibit at the Eden Project. This has a brilliantly simple premise of showing the amount of CO2 produced by a range of objects and activities, relative to a journey in a Smart car. The objects within the car are all labelled with different quantities, making it easy to compare different amounts.

Michael Westley
Westley Design

Michael Westley asked to be introduced with this image - showing an impression of the Barton Orchard development in South Devon. It features earth sheltered houses, with passive heating through optimal orientation, photovoltaic solar panels on partially green roofs, and many other sustainable innovations.

Abraham Cambridge
Technical and Commercial Director
Renewable Energy Co-operative (R-ECO)

This image shows the recently completed R-ECO 75kW roof integrated solar energy system at Heartlands in Poole. Heartlands is a social regeneration project for the Camborne-Pool-Redruth region, and the visitors centre for the newly appointed World Heritage status of Cornish Tin Mining.

Rachel Gaunt
Poynton Bradbury Wynter Cole Architects

Rachael sent in this image of the island of Tresco, in the Isles of Scilly. They wanted to highlight the need for communicating choices today on architectural designs that must last 50 years or more.

Terence Bourton
Ocean Housing

Ocean Housing is a Registered Social Landlord with a stock of some 2700 general needs homes and 725 sheltered properties throughout Cornwall.

Robert Woolf
Sea Communications

Robert Woolf provided this image showing their Stop The Traffik project. This allows users to post and share information about potential traffiking incidents that they have witnessed - allowing evidence from different geographical locations to be brought together to monitor and control illegal human traffiking.

Andrew Clappison
Communications Manager

Comms Consult were introduced with the above image, showing the wide range of communication-related services that the business offers - including communication strategies, information management, training and workshops, multimedia and monitoring/evaluation.

Caroline Robinson
Cartographer & Designer
Clear Mapping Company

Clear Mapping specialise in locational, directional and route maps for businesses in the South-West of England.

Matt Hollands
Sam White


MPAD offers a range of marketing, public relations, advertising and design services to a variety of clients with the aim of helping them communicate effectively with their customers. They also have a commitment to reducing their impact on the environment.

Martin Jackson
Journalist and Copywriter

Martin sent this image for his introduction - the cover of a book he was commissioned to write about the design and build of the Eden Project to mark its opening. He describes his professional interest - and personal pleasure - to be storytelling.

Matt Hocking
Design for Change (LEAP)

Leap are a graphic design agency with strong environmental and social commitments. Matt spent 3 years as the head of graphics for Eden, and since 2004 has been running Leap - where the mission is no less than "changing the world through design".

Robert Rush
Managing Director
PFA Research Ltd

PFA supply market intelligence to allow their clients to evaluate, quantify and address their market and customers. The services they provide include interviews, focus groups, mystery shopping, and postal, online or telephone surveys.

Dr Will Stahl-Timmins
Associate Research Fellow
European Centre for Environment and Human Health

Will's research involves the presentation of environment and human health data using information graphics. One current project involves the presentation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) impacts report in different formats (graphical and textual) to assess the effects on public understanding of climate science.

Amy Nettley
PhD student
University of Exeter

Amy Nettley's doctoral research explores how 3D animations can help local communities understand the effects of climatic change on the landscape of the Tamar Valley.

Shukru Esmene
PhD Student
European Centre for Environment and Human Health

Shukru's doctoral project explores 'knowledge waste' between different stakeholders involved with electric cars. The project is a collaboration between the European Centre for Environment and Human Health and a Cornish business, Eco-drive.

Prof Mike Wilson
Sarah Chapman
Francesca Booker

Project ASPECT
University College Falmouth

ASPECT uses digital video recording technology to gather stories from across the UK - putting climate change into the context of our everyday lives.

Dr Nick Bearman
Associate Research Fellow
European Centre for Environment and Human Health

Nick's research interests include communication through mapping techniques such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS). He has also used sound and cartograms to communicate particular aspects of spatial data.

Katharina Kaesehage
PhD student
University of Exeter

Katharina's doctoral research aims to help businesses understand the cultural and physical context of climate change. Her project is supported by the European Social Fund, focussing on the maritime business sector.

Dr Daro Montag
Associate Professor of Art & Environment
University College Falmouth

As an artist and lecturer, Dr Montag tries to raise awareness of environmental issues, in particular the combined impacts of climate change and peak oil. He leads a research group, RANE, and an MA in Art & Environment. The image he showed was of a biochar furnace - a method of carbon sequestering, related to one of his art projects.

Carolyn Arnold
PhD Student
University College Falmouth

Carolyn's doctoral project investigates storytelling as a paradigm for promoting pro-environmental behaviour, exploring the effects of perceived social norms on business attitudes towards sustainability.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Talking Climate

Some excellent links to research on the communication of climate change are available here:

Talking Climate is a UK-based part­ner­ship between the Climate Outreach and Information Network (COIN), the Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC) and the ‘Climate change as com­plex social issue’ research group at the School of Sociology and Social Policy, Nottingham University.

Project ASPECT videos online

Several videos from Project Aspect at University College Falmouth are now online. They are inspiring stories of individual people's efforts to deal with changes at a community level:

Friday, 27 January 2012

Media examples - meeting 1

Attendees at the first meeting were asked to provide examples of successful communication, using any media. A selection of these "communication artefacts" are shown below:

Dr Will Stahl-Timmins, a researcher at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health, showed Florence Nightingale's 'Rose Diagram'. This attractive and innovative diagram was used to show the causes of deaths in the crimean war. It is a flawed presentation, which is used to exaggerate the message within the data, by using a linear scale from the centre of each 'rose'. This causes the number of deaths from infections and other preventable causes to seem larger than they are.

Dr Cassandra Phoenix, a researcher at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health, presented images of mature natural bodybuilders. She has used 'auto-photography' in her research, a method in which participants take photographs to give a visual record of things that are important to them.

Tobit Emmens, Head of Research Management and Innovation for the Devon Partnership NHS Trust, presented a short film on the subject of suicide. It aims to show the power of simple, friendly actions. The main technique used here is to inspire empathy, and show that even a complete stranger can change someone else's life for the better through simple friendliness and compassionate actions.
Full video:

Felicity Liggins, Climate Change Consultant for the Met Office, showed the Earth Clock. This demonstrates that, if the length of time that the earth has existed was shown on a 24-hour clock face, humans would only have existed for 1 minute and 17 seconds. This technique shows a difficult to grasp length of time in relation to a more familiar object. A different version, from the film "The 11th Hour" was shown later by Bryan Clark:

Dr Sabine Pahl, a researcher from University of Plymouth, showed three images that form part of her research into the impact of potentially disturbing images. Images of this sort are used to shock and to grab attention, but could also have a unintended effect of causing people to react against them, or even forget them.

This image is a still from a video produced by project ASPECT at University College Falmouth. Professor Mike Wilson, Sarah Chapman and Francesca Booker presented the work, which aims to put climate change into the context of our everyday lives, by recording stories from around the UK.
Project website:

Kelly-Marie Davidson, Communications Officer from Plymouth Marine Laboratory, presented an informative video about ocean acidification - which occurs alongside climate change, but is perhaps less well-known. The video is authoritative in tone, and relies on the reputation of the organisation that presents it - an important aspect of many communications.
Full video:

Ella Westland, Transition Network Facilitator for the community group Make Gorran Greener, showed a video called Brucewatch, produced for Henry Orchard and Sons. The video promoted their business, and also raising awareness of recycling. It has several important features. Firstly, it is amusing, providing a pastiche (of Baywatch). Secondly, it uses Cornish actors and production company - giving it potential social relevance to the audience. lastly, it uses the principle of "sex sells" (or in this case, it grabs attention).
Full video:

This image was provided by Dr Tony Wainright, Senior Teaching Fellow at the College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter. He talked about the power of images that break convention to attract attention.

Alexander Smalley, Communications & Outreach Manager at the European Centre for Environment and Human Health, presented a short video on climate models. The video used a series of video loops to demonstrate the increasing sophistication and complexity of climate models, from basic models featuring only greenhouse gas emissions, ice and cloud cover, to much more involved models with ocean currents, the full carbon cycle, volcanoes, rivers, aerosols and even chemical reactions, plants and soil and ocean biology. The idea of slowly building complexity in a visual presentation to assist understanding can also be effective when used for information graphics and user interace design.

Ashley Rudolph, Senior Lecturer for the Graphic Design course at University College Falmouth, presented this example of the pictograms designed by Otl Aicher and his team to represent the different events at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972. These show a great understanding of the audience for his work. He realised that, although the people at the Games spoke a wide range of verbal languages, he could use a visual language that would be accessible to them all - the body positions of the athletes were the only signification that was needed for the events.

Dr Dawn Scott, Research Development Manager at the University of Exeter, showed this Greenpeace poster. It relies on nostalgia and childhood memories - the feeling of loss can be a powerful motivator.

Bryan Clark, Senior Academic at University College Falmouth, showed this image from an installation in São Paulo, Brazil. The idea is that the penguins, made of ice, will melt in the heat - symbolic of the disappearance of real penguins if climate change continues. The addition of unfamiliar objects to a familiar situation can be an effective way of getting attention.