The digital revolution is changing the ways of the world. Not surprisingly it is also reshaping our perception of sustainability.
The digital revolution is changing the ways of the world. Not surprisingly it is also reshaping our perception of sustainability. Digital tools can help us offer fresh perspectives on our visions of the future.
One of the brightest examples comes from the 24 Hours for a Resourceful Future project created by Suez. Merging skillful narration with 3D-style animated illustrations, the company offers up nine solutions for a world without waste on its website, which is a vivid example of how even the simplest daily actions can be communicated as significant and interesting, be it a separate collection of biowaste or recycling of old mattresses.
Another vivid example comes from a project done by the New York Times in collaboration with Allbirds, an American company which uses a direct-to-consumer approach for its environmentally friendly footwear. The result is a 3D-animated web page featuring birds waving wings, as close to real life as it could get.
The website tells stories of birds from a variety of habitats threatened by climate change and other environmental pressures. The realistic design creates the feeling of proximity and a special sense of care, achieved through a masterful combination of the picture, the sound, and the story.
More similar examples come from the Shorty Awards for Best in Environment and Social Media, which highlights initiatives that seek to “promote, protect and preserve our environment,” honoring particularly effective and vivid cases across the web.
From a dozen projects that participated in the competition, particularly worthy of attention are the Under the canopy by Conservation International and Dive Deeper 2 by the Water Brothers show. The first one allows you to experience wildlife in the Amazon forest using VR, while the second uses transmedia storytelling to educate you about water issues across the globe and sustainable practices that can help to conserve it.
Data-based visual stories are emerging as one more approach to spreading knowledge about global environmental change. The Point of No Return website executed in minimalistic black-and-red colors tell the story of climate change with precise numbers and graphs showing one of the most concise intros into global adaptation capacity, economics and finance.
Stories like these have the potential of reaching broader audiences and supporting better recall than elaborate reports, scientific studies or everyday news. Similar initiatives are likely to keep growing in number, which is great news for those who want more people to care about the future of the planet.
With the rise of sustainability in the corporate world a number of organizations, such as Futerra, Forum for the Future and The New Division, are focusing on communications aimed at driving sustainable changes. The last one is behind Sustainable Development Goal branding and communication strategy, which is the most successful agenda by the UN to date and is instantly recognizable across the globe.
Among other key organizations in this area is Globalia, which has made a name for itself in visualizing the quantitative side of human impacts on Earth. For example, its Geophanies selection brings together arts, humanities and science to represent a variety of perspectives on the present and the future planet, leading to “impressionistic depictions” of our common habitats. Covering a wide range of topics (from protected areas to transatlantic air routes) the visualization was called “truly iconic” by sustainability scientist Johan Rockström.
The question still remains: how do we actually harness this power for good to help drive the necessary changes in a timely manner? Although people in the field might feel that everybody is talking about climate change and other environmental issues, in reality the coverage of these issues remains wanting compared to the urgency of the actions required. This is lucidly demonstrated by the recent Flood the News initiative, which aims to bring climate issues to the frontpages of newspapers everywhere.
The challenges for these and other similar initiatives are going to be many. Aggressive marketing campaigns by companies engaged in greenwashing can undermine true sustainability drives. Sadly, almost anything can get marketed as green these days, which can make it increasingly hard to discern choices that drive real change.
Still, with rising citizen participation and other pressures on the corporate world, it is quite likely that real stories of care for the environment will stand out in the crowd. Hopefully, a new wave of sustainability storytelling empowered by the digital media can help us build a better world.