Skills diversification is the key to a sustainable future

29th September 2016

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Helen White

Creative communications can be used to build understanding and stimulate change.

Here is a selection of recent headlines from the media:

‘Government likely to miss 2020 renewable energy targets’;

‘A new type of politics could help prevent climate disaster’;

‘Soaring ocean temperatures is the greatest hidden challenge of our generation’;

‘Can visual art affect viewer perceptions of climate change?’

What are they all telling us? Yes, anthropogenic climate change is casting some ominous shadows on the horizon, and, as yet, humans have not been reacting fast enough. Alarm and dire warnings usually accompany stories about climate change, but the truth is many such messages fail to inspire people to take action or change their behaviour.

What is inspiring is that, when you look at these headlines as a whole, you see that the bigger picture lies in how climate change brings us together because it affects everyone. These headlines are a call to arms – from politicians, policymakers, scientists and psychologists, to ecologists, marine biologists, economists, mathematicians, artists, educators and journalists.

People from all walks of life should not see this as a time of environmental calamity, but one of opportunity, innovation and collaboration. This is a time when we are challenged to reimagine our world and find ways to make it work anew; to find different ways to communicate complex information and to challenge cultural and behavioural norms.

Artists such as Nathalie Miebach are already doing this. Using weather data from massive storms, Miebach creates woven sculptures to visually communicate the changing forces of nature. Her sculptures and the award-winning documentary Chasing Ice succeed in visually connecting the reality and narrative of climate change with the abstract data that surrounds it.

Finding creative ways of communicating why we should care about climate change is integral to successfully creating a sustainable future.

For those of us at the start of our sustainability careers, we feel the future of the sustainability profession lies in skills diversification – using thought leadership and creative communications to build understanding and stimulate change.

The IEMA skills map is the perfect prompt for practitioners to think about where they can expand their professional sustainability skills. But it must stop there. We can transform the world to sustainability only if we embrace our diversity, be creative and do it together.


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