By considering the needs and aspirations of individuals and community groups we can support conversations around the topic of climate change, and in doing so we can inspire positive action against the negative effects of climate change caused by human activities.
As part of The Climate Communication Project, Sam Illingworth led a series of climate poetry workshops with three different community groups based in Manchester, Stockport and Bristol. The workshops used a creative approach to develop a safe space for discussion around climate change, encouraging individuals to openly discuss what climate change meant to them, and work as a group to put their thoughts into words. Each community group produced collaborative poems, responses to climate change as seen through the eyes of a distinct community.
Our creative method of co-production stands in contrast to the traditional model of climate communication, which is based on one-way sharing of knowledge, and emphasises the need to explore the identities of different groups in society.
Researchers travelled to established community groups to listen to their needs and potential barriers to talking about climate change. Participants were then guided through a series of poetry-writing exercises, which involved writing poems about two different topics: their community, and climate change. We chose to work with The Avonmouth Community Centre, Disability Stockport and Manchester faith groups because they presented an opportunity to listen to a selection of different voices, and demonstrate how these workshops could be applied as a safe space for discussions about climate change with typically underserved communities.
By analysing the discussions and poetry that arose out of these workshops we show how this community-level approach to communicating climate change is an essential counterpart to any larger-scale plans for communicating climate change at a national level or beyond.
We found that the engagement of each community with climate change is dependent on the lived experiences of their members; and a failure to recognize this would result in less effective communications and could also cause communities to feel isolated and helpless.
Sam Illingworth is a senior lecturer in Science Communication, with a background in the atmospheric sciences and expertise in public engagement and outreach.