Chapter 2 – Research, reflect, be reactive and experiment

We loved our conversation with activists in Indonesia, about how they tackled a challenge every campaigner knows: that sinking feeling when your campaigns are just not getting support from the public. Indonesia was finding it tricky to get people engaged with climate change. So they did some detailed research, and brought all their findings together in this great report. This helped them find a few potential angles for their campaigns:

  • 1 National pride. It was identified early on that being one of the places with the highest biodiversity and largest forest in the world – being a “global lung” for the world – brings a lot of pride to citizens of Indonesia. Appealing to this sense of patriotism was effective for bringing up issues of forests, climate and ultimately net zero as a means of protecting all that the country is proud of.
  • 2 Consumer rights. When a consumer chooses to buy, say, a drink or a new car, that choice has a direct effect on emissions of climate- damaging gases. This is certainly a more urban issue, but it can be used to show clear connections to net zero and to hang campaigns on. For example, the Plastic Bag Diet movement started a campaign from the perspective of the consumer to persuade retailers and retail associations to charge for plastic bags. It ended up not only achieving that goal, but also achieving city and province wide bans on plastic bags. It’s a virtuous circle: a ban significantly reduces the consumption of plastic bags, which can lead to reduced production and waste, which can reduce emissions. This highlights how a strong show of readiness from consumers can push the industry or strengthen their resolve in the right direction.
  • 3 Deregulation. Deforestation and forest fires often involve big, powerful, national and multinational companies, who capitalise on weak law enforcement. Attempts to further deregulate them are very unpopular. Deregulation, especially laws that make it easier for companies to pass on the costs of their greenhouse gas emissions, brings a sense of deep injustice, and energises people to act

Here’s more detail, in’s words:

SPOTLIGHT: INDONESIALook for a new angle to increase engagement

‘We tried the angle of the food crisis. This seems to be quite a popular one. We related climate change to the actual food on your plate. We showed the sequence of cause and effect starting from climate change causing unpredictable patterns with weather, and that causes failed crops, fluctuates prices, deepening poverty for farmers, as well as the supply, price and quality of food that you are able to buy. We did this campaign with an urban celebrity that is known for her environmental activism. She talked about how the weather can be so unpredictable. It’s supposed to be summer, but it’s been raining all week long, and the small vegetable and corn garden that she has in her backyard has completely been decimated. She then asked users to imagine that this is happening to farms all over the country, and food source becomes very very unpredictable. We found her intervention, her interest in the topic and her voice, really connected with the public, and got more people involved in the campaign. The other big strategy that we always experiment with is how we react to natural disasters, because we’ve been getting them so often. We did research into how the public think about natural disasters and were surprised that people don’t relate flooding(which we often experience) to climate change. This surprised us, because increased flooding is one of the most obvious links from everyday life to climate change. So we’re now trying to run campaigns that show people that a long dry summer without rainfall, followed by having too much rainfall and floods, is climate change, and is something that they may want to campaign about.’ Arief Aziz, Former Country Director, Indonesia.

Images from Instagram showing an urban gardener, Rara Sekar. Indonesia

We enjoyed hearing from Youth Ki Awaaz, a user-generated Indian youth media platform on social justice issues, about the research they’ve done. It was so interesting to hear how they noticed a surge in interest in youth unemployment, and found ways to explain the link between climate mitigation and young people getting jobs:

SPOTLIGHT: INDIA Linking everyday concerns with the wider issue 

‘We’ve been doing research to understand: what are the anxieties of young people in cities? What are the things they care deeply about, for example, jobs, and having a good career?

Every year because of climate change, India’s losing hundreds of thousands of jobs. Recently, there was a big unemployment debate because India touched the highest unemployment rate in the last four decades. At that point, while everyone was talking about how India has lost jobs, we brought in the climate angle, and we made a point about how if India had a proper climate mitigation strategy, we could actually build more jobs than the number of jobs we’re losing every year. That found a great deal of relatability with our audience.

Ultimately what we did was show that the local and national government is unprepared for climate change, and all the consequences it’s having, and will have, for us all.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit India, and it was so clear that the government was unprepared for all the terrible things that happened, it reinforced to people that very bad things happen when the government is unprepared.

At first we thought it would be impossible to keep talking about climate change with the pandemic hitting India, because people would be preoccupied by the pandemic. But we found that, in that moment, it was actually the perfect time to talk about climate change. Because people were getting exhausted of Covid-19 information, and they’d identified and recognised how unprepared India was when it comes to the pandemic. We saw people saying that Covid has highlighted our vulnerability and unpreparedness. And there is a bigger threat that’s looming on top of us: climate change.’

Anshul Tewari, Founder, Youth Ki Awaaz
It’s important to take time to reflect if things aren’t working.

Every campaigner is driven by different things, but what unites us is a hope for a better tomorrow. It’s easy to be driven by urgency and impatience to run a successful campaign right now.

It’s also easy as a campaigner to be frustrated when no one is paying attention to your issue, but both the examples above show that, even in the midst of natural disasters or pandemics, there are ways to sensitively link the immediate crisis to the longer-term disaster that is man-made climate change.