Picture our future

30th November 2016

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Management ,
  • Employee engagement ,
  • Stakeholder engagement ,
  • Natural resources ,
  • Biodiversity


Rebecca Fleet

Visual media is vital for engagement.

Last month, Planet Earth II launched on the BBC, with the first episode attracting 9.2 million viewers. The large number watching a nature documentary demonstrates that the natural world still sparks an interest in many people.

More than just a window into the exotic, Planet Earth is a mirror that reflects the global challenges threatening our world, bringing the far away issues of climate change into our living rooms. The narrator, Sir David Attenborough, stressed that, never before had the wildernesses been as fragile or as precious as they are today.

The public reception for Planet Earth II should be a beacon of hope for the profession in an otherwise disappointing month of news for the environment and sustainability.

Practitioners are in the minority of those who truly appreciate that fast action is needed to protect the future of the planet. Faced with expert opinion, most people tend to disconnect. Statistics are not evidence for alarm, but a cue to turn off. Show them an engaging video, however, and suddenly the fate of one iguana is the trending concern. Instead of making people recoil, visuals make them lean in. This is a clear signal that the future of communicating environment and sustainability issues rests on a medium that is immediately accessible and absorbing.

Research suggests that 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. Today’s younger generation – the IEMA Futures generation – consumes much of its learning and forms opinions through visual media. To engage young people with the environment, it is essential practitioners employ visual techniques with which they can connect. Whether we are presenting environmental audit results, expressing the impact of a change in practice or explaining a new policy, we should be using visuals to engage audiences and deliver the right impact.

We should be guided by the reaction to Planet Earth II: visual technology holds the potential to engage millions with the environment, and will help us articulate why we need to transform the world to sustainability.


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