Earlier in 2016, Northern Lights.mn sent each committee member a questionnaire focusing on themes and features of Northern Spark 2016. Here’s what they had to say.
Connector, Grady Britton
Morgan has unique experience for someone working at a creative agency. She is an environmental engineer with over 25 years experience working with government, nonprofit and private organizations on a variety of environmental and natural resource-related issues. Morgan is also currently a member of the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission and Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, and is deeply entrenched with state and local policy makers. Morgan believes that the best way to affect long-term behavior change is through amazing creative visuals, simple messaging, and great storytelling.
What are your thoughts on our festival theme Climate Chaos I Climate Rising?
Chaos and rising convey to me the impacts that climate change will have in the future. Certainly creating chaos in the communities affected by climate change, and rising temperatures and sea levels. The future will be irrevocably altered by climate change. How much remains to be seen by the actions that are undertaken in the very near term.
Of the topics: move, nourish, interconnect, perceive, act, which engage you? With which does your practice align, reflect or agitate? How?
After 20 years working as an environmental engineer working for businesses in the US and globally on issues of environmental compliance and sustainability, I reached the conclusion that facts alone are not enough to affect behavior change in the public on the scale that is needed to address the pressing issue of climate change and long-term sustainability/resilience. Particularly when we as a society are so ideologically on extreme ends of the spectrum. And where facts are perceived to be optional as beliefs.
Three years ago, I changed careers to communications/advertising with the hope that if an advertising agency can influence people to buy products they really do not need, we should be able to influence people to make changes or take actions that benefit themselves and the community.
Using great art and consistent messaging, I believe that we can change the way we feel and perceive the future, and what as individuals we can do to influence positive change.
What are two important ideas or questions related to the subthemes you identify with, that the public should know or ask?
- Who are we really talking to? To be effective in any communications it is important to define the audience and stakeholder universe – who does the conversation/initiative need to target directly? Who should be motivated to action, and what stands in the way of doing this? Who are possible partners or like-minded organizations with whom to partner to extend the reach and impact of the cause or campaign? What does this ecosystem of audiences currently think about the cause or their own organization, and what will motivate them to change their behavior or perception?
- What can I do as an individual to make a difference?
From the perspective of your field in general, what are two of the most pressing concerns about the effects of climate change that the public should know?
- Creating Community Resilience
Communities across the United States face significant challenges in the 21st century, including the impacts of global climate change, the end of cheap fossil fuels, the shift to a low- or no-growth economic norm, and the accelerating depletion of natural resources.
These global challenges manifest as local environmental, social, and economic vulnerabilities. Climate change is fueling more extreme weather events and threatening public safety and private property. The end of cheap fossil fuels has reshuffled the assumptions and expectations built into public infrastructure, supply chains, and business models. The continuing globalization and technologization of the economy makes it ever easier for capital and jobs to move, a reality that many communities are unprepared for or simply ill-suited to address.
Resilience is a term often used in discussions about communities wrestling with disruptive change. It’s most commonly meant as simply the ability to “bounce back” from a single disaster like a hurricane or earthquake. At a deeper level, however, resilience involves adaptation to changing circumstances, and consideration of the complexity and interconnectedness of systems.
Although scientists studying resilience talk specifically about socio-ecological systems— the combination of an ecosystem with the human social system that uses it, and in doing so changes it—the concept can also be applied usefully to the complex systems that are our communities.
For communities, building resilience for the challenges of the 21st century means anticipating changing environmental, social, and economic factors; identifying specific local vulnerabilities; and restructuring public services and decision-making to enable both learning and adaptation.
To influence policy-makers significant public pressure is needed. If citizens understand the need for greater resilience and want actions to enhance it, then perhaps necessary policy and infrastructure changes could be implemented, or at the very least initiated faster.
What is missing from that conversation about climate change? Whose voice is missing?
The missing voices are many. But first we must decide what voices are needed, and what they want to hear.
When businesses or organizations take on initiative or cause, it’s important to consider the following:
- Define the audience and stakeholder universe – who does the initiative need to target directly? Who should be motivated to action, and what stands in the way of doing this? Who are possible partners or like-minded organizations with whom to partner to extend the reach and impact of the campaign? What does this ecosystem of audiences currently think about the cause or our own organization, and what will motivate them to change their behavior or perception?
- Define the position and identity for the cause or initiative – how will the organization speak about the initiative? How does it tie to the overarching brand of the organization? How can the initiative be positioned in such a way to ensure it will resonate with all target audiences?
What has been your experience of how and why people’s behaviors change in relation to climate change?
In a ridiculous political climate where senators throw snowballs in Congress to make a false point, and major corporations are funding groups denying climate change, democracy is undermined, and more importantly future generations imperiled.
International treaties have been signed, and politicians have been talking about the need to reduce green house gas emissions, yet very little has been done. I think in part due to the complexity of climate science, and the esoteric nature of offsets and mitigation. Rising sea levels, glaciers melting, and atmospheric temperatures warming do not affect most people in their daily lives at present.
When it comes to something as complicated as climate change, the act of conversation — whether it’s one-on-one or group — takes on a whole new level of importance and significance. And to initiate dialogue, and for there to be a willingness to listen and trust, there needs to first be a awareness and relationship.
Historically, people’s beliefs and behaviors can be moved through effective storytelling and art. Stories and art make an emotional connection, whereas facts and figures can be easily forgotten. Great stories can change people and the world. And today’s multimedia technology is creating new possibilities for how they’re expressed.
From a point of trust and connection people are more willing to listen to the facts. Facts and stories together may shift perception, and over time, that shift in perception will be a change in behavior or action.
In your view, how does or could art add to the climate change conversation?
Collective Impact is when diverse organizations commit to a common agenda for solving a complex social or environmental problem, such as climate change. The underlying premise of Collective Impact is that no single organization can create large-scale, lasting social change alone. Collective Impact is more rigorous and specific than traditional collaboration among organizations.
On the issue of climate change, policy and advocacy groups need to:
- find a way to enable partnerships with disparate groups;
- find ways to leverage the complementary efforts of these organizations;
- and yet at the same time, find a credible role to play in the conversation
Artists have an important role to play in the collective impact model. Art has the ability to move people and spark ideas and conversations in ways that educators, policy makers, media, politicians, environmental advocates and a multitude of other voices in the crowd others cannot.