“Science tells us what to do, but storytelling makes us want to do it.” – Dr. Peter Kareiva
To mark COP28 this year, THINKHOUSE, the Irish B Corp certified marketing company, has compiled 28 pieces of climate storytelling to learn something from. Rather than focus on the ways creative work has missed the mark, this is work that they believe is helping to move our narratives forward – in the direction of lives that future generations would thank us for. From using satire and humour to getting experimental with creative tech, each is a useful source of inspiration. Some help connect us with what is urgent, honest and problematic – others invite new possibilities of active hope, beauty and impact, because as author Oliver Jeffers puts it, “Storytelling is the most powerful force humans have.”
#1 & 2 EXPLORE SATIRE
Make My Money Matter: ‘Oblivia Coalmine’
‘What’s the point in saving for retirement in a world on fire?’ …This satirical video has cut through to mainstream media conversations by highlighting a serious issue -the shocking, but unintended, impacts of our pensions investments into fossil fuels. ‘Oblivia Coalmine’s’ script is equally pun-fuelled and educational.
Glimpse: Atmospheric Agency
Another example of satire, this fake creative agency was set up to highlight the reality of marketing companies pitching for fossil fuel clients. From the ‘activist free by 2030’ target to the case study about badgers living in reused oil barrels, the layers of this story get better and better.
#3 & 4 TAP INTO POPULAR CULTURE AND PUBLIC SPACE
Greenpeace, Total Pollution: A Dirty Game
In this video a digital Stade de France is filled with oil to mark TotalEnergies ‘sports washing’ sponsorship of the Rugby World Cup. Striking 3D visuals help visualise the scale of the oil industry’s impact. Tying it to the World Cup made sure the problems of a fossil fuel company being the main sponsor are not forgotten by a huge number of viewers.
Línte na Farraige
Funded by Creative Ireland, Línte na Farraige is a series of light installations across Irish coastal sites. The installations reveal the risks of rising seas and storm surges and demonstrate the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to lower the line and adapt together to protect coastlines. This project is a symbiosis of art and science, inspired by the astonishing light installations from Finnish artists Timo Aho and Pekka Niittyvirta.
#5 CENTRE PEOPLE IN NATURE
Conservation International: Imagine for one minute
This short but beautiful piece features visuals by the McLaughlin brothers, known for their captivating match-cut style videos, and emotive music by Max Cooper. The video is made up of thousands of images – peoples’ faces, animals’ faces, nature – and a message that asks the viewer to imagine a better future.
#6 USE ANALOGY
Greenpeace: Don’t Stop
Don’t Stop shines a light on the fight of our lives – to save our planet from climate breakdown. It exposes the grotesque behaviour of oil companies enjoying record profits while our world burns. Ultimately it is a story of hope: it points to the power in all of us to stop this recklessness.
#7 EMBRACE THE ‘UGLY’ TRUTH
Channel 4: Change Climate: What Are Those With Power Doing About It?
The ‘skid marks’ advert. This work echoes the tone of Greenpeace’s Don’t Stop – highlighting the ‘party’ that those in power are having.
#8 USE SIMPLE LANGUAGE
Climate Science Breakthrough: Climate Science Translated
Comedian Jo Brand helps Professor Mark Maslin spell out the risks of climate change, pulling zero punches, and using highly unscientific language throughout. The film is part of an ongoing project to help climate science cut through to the public.
#9 MAKE ALTERNATIVES FEEL DESIRABLE
Craig David/Trainline: Better Days (I Came By Train)
Craig David partnered with travel company Trainline for an official music video highlighting the environmental benefits of rail travel. The song pushes travellers towards trains as a more sustainable travel option.
Fair Seas: Letter from the Sea
Fair Seas is urging the Irish Government to designate a minimum of 30% of Irish waters as Marine Protected Areas (areas that restrict human activity for conservation purposes – like National Parks) by 2030. The launch film, produced by THINKHOUSE, features a voiceover from the perspective of the sea herself, reminding the viewer of the important role it (the ocean) plays in our lives – not only the environmental benefits but also the joy the sea brings to our day-to-day existence.
Apple: Mother Nature
Although the motives of Apple are yet to be fully understood when it comes to sustainability, this piece is a great concept and fresh example of how ‘boardroom’ humour can be used as a tool. Positioning Mother Nature in the boardroom has been done by numerous companies, including Faith In Nature and House of Hackney.
#11 & 12 IMAGINE A GOOD FUTURE / LONGER TERM
The Intercept: A Message From the Future
Set a couple of decades from now, the film is a flat-out rejection of the idea that a dystopian future is a forgone conclusion. Instead, it offers a thought experiment: What if we decided not to drive off the climate cliff? What if we chose to radically change course and save both our habitat and ourselves?
Ki Saigon: Letters to the future
It takes a thousand years for plastic to decompose – it will be around when our great-great-great-grandchildren are born. Letters to the future is a collection of notes from all over the world – with contributors all addressing letters to their great-great-great-grandchildren – printing words on recycled plastic.
#13 ASK BIG QUESTIONS
Moral Imaginations: The Impossible Train Story
Using the analogy of a train journey for how humanity has operated up until this crucial moment in time, Moral Imaginations asks existential questions in a way that provokes a sense of new possibility.
#14 SUBVERT NORMS
Purpose Disruptors x Iris: The Good Ad
‘The Good Ad’ is a TV ad that has realised that instead of spending more we are all better off spending more time out there in nature. It’s an ad with a conscience. The ad is part of Purpose Disruptors’ “Reclaiming the commercial break” campaign (part of the organisation’s Good Life 2030 project). It wants people to reflect on advertising’s role in society, recognising its “enormous potential to help bring about the transformational cultural and behavioural shifts required to halve emissions by 2030 and secure a liveable future for humanity”.
#15 TACKLE GREENWASHING HEAD ON
Britta – Clear On Bottled Water
This is a very smart, funny piece by Britta, which engaged a big comedy star in the UK who would be familiar to a youth audience. It’s a great use of satire, not only on advertising itself but of celebrity endorsement, and the potential for green-washing using celebrities. Finally, it’s a really important message and Britta is the perfect brand to tackle it.
#16 AVOID CLICHÉ
Frank and Honest – You Can’t Fake Great Tasting Coffee
This ad for Frank and Honest is one that the THINKHOUSE team are proud of having created. It came about following a discussion about travelling to South America to film an ad about the brand’s sustainability credentials. The team realised that it wasn’t a very sustainable way to tell that story – so the footage was faked instead! It tackles a serious subject with humour. It satirises the typical style of ‘sustainability’ ads that have become cliche. It also deals directly with the carbon cost of making ads, a subject which has come to increasing prominence within the advertising industry since this ad was made in 2019.
#17 TAP INTO UNIVERSAL EMOTIONS
Ayisha Siddiqa: ON ANOTHER PANEL ABOUT CLIMATE, THEY ASK ME TO SELL THE FUTURE AND ALL I’VE GOT IS A LOVE POEM
Young Pakistani-American poet, Ayisha Siddiqa, is a “climate activist”, storyteller and human rights and land defender. She is a climate advisor to the U.N. Secretary General, and was a 2023 TIME Woman of the Year. This love poem is beautiful and important.
#18 RAISE NEW & MINORITY VOICES
Choose Earth x Choose Love
Whilst Indigenous communities are only 5% of the world’s population, they protect 80% of global biodiversity. This campaign built a network of nominated key Indigenous community leaders – academics, scientists, activists, artists, journalists, shamans, and spiritual leaders – who are committed to driving change on a regional and national scale. It then used innovative storytelling, resource distribution, and worked collaboratively to reframe the Western narratives around Indigenous Peoples and conservation.
#19 REFLECT COMMUNITY & COLLECTIVE IMPACT
SuperValu: Local Action, Global Impact
Global crises can feel overwhelming to the point of paralysis.‘Local Action, Global Impact’ is a new community narrative that reframes risks and threats, opportunities and solutions. The team wanted to harness SuperValu’s momentum and influence to trigger positive actions across the country at scale, by better connecting with the lives we need to be living. The project brings it right back to simple actions – and the reality of joyful, resilient and vibrant communities that make sustainable living part of how they live well today.
#20 USE PLAYFUL ANIMATION
Greenpeace International: Rang-tan: the story of dirty palm oil
In this hit Greenpeace film, a young orangutan’s forest home is being destroyed to clear the way for palm oil, an ingredient used in all kinds of everyday products. It centres the story around a friendship between a little girl and her orangutan friend forced from her forest home.
#21 HOLD CONFLICTING IDEAS TOGETHER
Global Optimism: Outrage + Optimism
This podcast explores the stories behind the headlines on climate change, talking to the change-makers turning challenges into opportunities. It gets to grips with the live, difficult climate-related issues that are happening across the globe on a weekly basis. It encourages listeners to be outraged and optimistic about how the world is responding to climate breakdown.
#22 & 23 MAKE IT PERSONAL
ITV: Eyewitness to the Climate Crisis: The summer that predicted the future?
A powerful video from ITV journalists sharing their personal experience of reporting on climate change over the summer of 2023.
WWF: Global Plastic Diet
This piece of work highlights that on average people could be ingesting around 5 grams of plastic every week, which is the equivalent weight of a credit card.
#24 EVEN MORE COMEDY
Yellow Dot Studios
Yellow Dot Studios is a non-profit production studio founded by Adam McKay to fight back against climate disinformation and inaction. Yellow Dot creates entertaining, memorable, and scientifically accurate videos and other media to challenge decades of disinformation. By shining a light on the urgency, responsible parties, and scientifically proven solutions, it aims to empower more people to be part of the conversation about what we’re facing and what we can do about it.
#25 MAKE ACTION ACCESSIBLE
Breaking Boundaries: Count Us In
Following the unmissable Breaking Boundaries: The Science of our Planet documentary, this website is created to help people take tangible action in their own lives: “Find a step that’s right for you. When you’re ready, try another. Every step matters and every step counts.”
#26 THINK INTERSECTIONAL
Intersectional Environmentalism is an inclusive version of environmentalism that centres climate conversations around justice. Intersectional thinking is important when it comes to climate storytelling as it helps for people who are concerned about other issues that are also at the root cause of climate breakdown – like inequality – to make the connection.
#27 & 28 BE EPIC
Planet Earth / Blue Planet
The ‘Blue Planet’ effect (TV stories changing viewers habits around plastic consumption) was real. Showcasing what it is that is worth saving is so important – doing it on an epic scale with the latest tech and the one and only David Attenborough? Magic.
NASA x William Anders: Earthrise
This epic, iconic photo was taken during the NASA Apollo 8 mission to the moon in 1968. When published, ‘Earthrise’ told the story about our planet’s fragility and uniqueness. This helped shift perspectives to help catalyse the global environmental movement.