Issy's concerned about the environment, but she didn’t think she had the power to create positive change. That was until she started writing climate comedy. Issy shares how she's using the skills she has to help people engage with climate change in a whole new way. She also has some advice for how you can too!
I think about the climate crisis at least five times a day. These thoughts inundate my mind and are often partnered with feelings of panic and anxiety.
When we look at the climate science there is a lot to be anxious about. We’ve seen extreme weather conditions like heat waves, droughts and flooding, predicted food insecurity and climate-related health outbreaks like dengue fever. We are truly amidst a climate crisis.
Much of my stress stems from identifying problems and feeling powerless to fix them. This ranges from seeing unnecessary plastic everywhere in our fruit and vegetable aisles, to a lack of government action on climate policy.
I have conversations about the climate crisis a lot with my housemates. One is a health scientist and the other works in renewable energy. Our house is full of conversations about newly published health research and breakthroughs in energy technologies. Their skills, work and knowledge give me a boost of hope for a decent future, but they also make me feel excluded from contributing to protecting the planet as I lack their skills.
I’m not an engineer, I don’t work in government or the energy sector, and I’m not a professional activist. I’m a comedian and writer and I believed my skills couldn’t contribute towards climate action. This was, however, until I started writing climate comedy.
Earlier this year I performed at TEDxYouth Sydney and used comedy and Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) –a strange combination, I know!–as a tool to talk about some of the impacts we will experience under a changing climate.
What’s ASMR? It’s a tingly, pleasant feeling some people experience when hearing particular sounds, like the rustling of leaves or a gentle whisper into a microphone. Although this may feel like an abstract way to talk about droughts, flash flooding and the destruction of ecosystems, it did something important: it made people laugh about something they felt like they couldn’t, and in that moment they were able to engage with the climate crisis in a new way.
Climate news can be depressing as we don’t often hear good news stories. The constant barrage of articles detailing how everything is seemingly going wrong can make me feel despondent about the future. However, when I used comedy as a medium to talk about climate impacts I found it connected audiences to these issues in a new way. It took an overwhelming issue and transformed it into something personal, changing feelings of hopelessness into laughter.
Engaging with the climate in a positive way can reframe how we decide to take action. This concept of working towards a positive climate message inspired the new climate art-party Hiccup, which aims to engage young people with climate issues through art, music and dance.
Hiccup works with climate-conscious artists and musicians to create a space to share knowledge around the impacts of the climate crisis as well as actionable tips you can use in your daily life. The collective donates all profits raised from its events to green organisations doing impactful work on the front line. This model of partnering soft activism and hard activism shows that you can dance and protest at the same time.
We need artists, writers, spoken word poets, journalists, filmmakers and designers to work with scientists to explain the data. The arts can move people in a way a statistic can’t. Feeling something about the climate is the first step in inciting action.
Activism takes many forms and having a conversation with a friend about how the changing climate is making you feel can be a powerful way to connect with someone and inspire them to make changes to their own habits.
Sharing your stories is a form of activism and whatever skills you have, you can use them to make positive change within your community. All skills are needed to fight the climate crisis and it’s only through collaboration and working together that we will be able to solve the greatest challenge we’ve ever faced.
If anything in this article raises any concerns or issues for you, please contact a relevant support service – Beyond Blue (Ph: 1300 224 636), Lifeline (Ph: 13 11 14) or Headspace (Ph: 1800 650 890). If your life is in immediate danger, please call 000.