02 Sep

One in 10:10

Yesterday, a new empowering climate change campaign called 10:10 launched with the aim of encouraging as many people, companies and institutions as possible to sign up to a pledge to cut their personal carbon footprints by 10% during 2010.

Here’s a chunk from one of the articles from yesterday’s Guardian G2:

The 10:10 campaign, which is launched today in partnership with the Guardian, is designed both to answer the call for immediate action, and to offer individuals and organisations a meaningful way of taking it. It is the brainchild of Franny Armstrong, the irrepressible film-maker behind The Age of Stupid, a powerful docudrama about our failure to tackle climate change. The idea is compellingly simple: by signing up, individuals and organisations from multinational companies to schools and hospitals commit to doing their best to cut their emissions by 10% by the end of 2010, precisely the sort of deep, quick cut the scientists say is needed.

You can read much more about the initiative, the launch, the philosophy behind it and the difference that such an apparently small commitment would make here on the Guardian environment site (The Guardian is a supporting partner of 10:10, though this probably earns it a higher place on the IoS’s smuggest Britons list – this year we were included for being “Patronising toffs, taking their revenge on the world after being bullied at school.” Does that mean the IoS are pro-bully? Or just bitter? Most confusing. Anyway, I digress.) or at the official campaign site at http://www.1010uk.org.

I signed up yesterday:

I signed up

10% is a very achievable reduction for the vast majority of people, and can be made through a small number of very simple (and not too hairshirted) actions (which we should all be doing anyway and which take very little effort)..

I’m inspired to think that a committed movement of people making small, personal but significant actions might be able to make a real difference. What was it Margaret Mead said…?

I hope you will consider signing up, too, and encourage your friends to do likewise, even though I know that many people try to live in an environmentally-sensitive way already, for lots of varying individual reasons.

Proselytizing aside, I went along to the launch event yesterday at the Tate Modern on London’s south bank, and had a few thoughts and experiences there that I wanted to jot down while they were still in my head.

1. When I entered the Turbine Hall where the event was taking place, I spotted this table:
Some are more equal than others
The leaflet on the tabletop reads (emphasis added by me):

Today, thousands of individuals and organisations from across the country are putting aside their differences to help write the first chapter of the biggest story of the 21st Century…

Except the existence of a VIP signup table, set away from the general public sign up table, is evidence that even in an campaign where we are encouraged to put aside our differences, some individuals are more important than others.

This was also noticeable in the photo-calls at the start of the event, where the celebrities were herded front and centre “to make sure they [were] in shot” while the passionate public clung to the edges. And invited celebrities were given coloured wristbands, which gave them access to special areas, like a reception room.

This isn’t what happens at the launch of an empowering campaign: this is a PR launch event. In my opinion, in a campaign like this, every Person is Very Important, and the way the event is organised and designed should reflect that.

2. Everyone who signed up at the launch event in London yesterday was given a tag on a string, which could be worn around the neck or wrist (or elsewhere, for more inventive types).

10:10

(The event yesterday also featured a free glass (well, cup) of champagne provided by Ocado for the first 1000 people – surely that should have been 1010?)

These tags can also be bought for £1 (not sure where from yet). It’s supposed to act as a mnemonic device to remind people about their commitment to reduce their carbon footprint, but also as a badge to show that the wearer is participating.

So far, not so unique. But the really good story here is where they come from:

In June 1982, [Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet] G-BDXH was flying over West Java en route to Auckland when she flew into the plume of volcanic ash produced by the eruption of Mount Galunggung (no, really). All four engines failed almost simultaneously, and the crew were forced to make an emergency landing in Jakarta. After decades spent hurtling around the lower stratosphere and making all kinds of climate mischief in the process, G-BDXH is spending her retirement making it up to us. She’s been melted down and turned into 150,000 10:10 Tags

I love that. And it’s a great example of the kind of thoughtful design that’s gone into making and communicating this simple idea to people.

I like the simplicity of the design for the tag and the clean lines of the 10:10 site, plus the sign up page at yesterday’s event was striking and simple to use. All the supporting materials to stick on your fridge and how to help and so on have been produced using human, clear language and striking yet simple layouts.

For a democratic campaign, inclusive, approachable and effective design matters, and while there’s a few improvements that could be made on the main site in order to better link together the various actions and objectives, it’s very well done on the whole. Clear branding works.

3. Standing in the queue to sign up to the 10:10 pledge, surrounded by other people who had come down to the event, I felt like I was part of something.

The signup queue

The act of coming together in a crowd to participate in (semi)-democratic symbolic action is a powerful symbol, as well as a good reminder that 1 person +1+1+1+1+1+1+1 (etc) = a mass movement. That’s what it takes.

4. Although the Turbine Hall of the (former) Bankside Power Station is a powerful symbol for a climate-change campaign, I was surprised at the London-centric nature of the launch event.

Why wasn’t there more focus on the web side of things? Or the ability to sign up in any library or Starbucks or Co-op bank across the country? Why did we all have to get to London?

In March, the team behind the Age of Stupid (the film directed by the creator of the 10:10 campaign) coordinated local premieres in towns and cities across the UK and in doing so, broke the world record for the largest simultaneous premiere in film history, which generated only 1% of the carbon emissions of a normal film premiere event. They did this in a range of natty ways, including using solar (and other alternative) power and recycled material for seating, but also crucially by enforcing – in line with their maximum impact, minimum carbon motto – a travel policy which included lots of local openings across the country instead of making people travel to Leicester Square – and if they did, then they could only arrive via eco-friendly means.

All very admirable.

In contrast, when waiting at the bus-stop for the bus to whisk me to the train station to go home, as the traffic crawled past I spotted a car containing someone who – not 40 minutes earlier – had been on stage with a microphone, underlining how important it was for individuals to make changes in their lifestyles, and how it was only through these kinds of changes that the targets could be reached.

I was quite disheartened seeing that. It felt a bit hypocritical and like it was ok to pay lip-service to a commitment without acting. But the truth is that change only comes about when people actually do things, not just talk about them in public (if only it was that easy!) – that means that changes need to be made by everyone.

I understand how important it is to have high-profile/important people attending a launch event, to ensure it gets media attention and exposure, and I also understand that some cars are better then others for carbon footprint; but even electric cars need to be plugged in somewhere, and how useful is media exposure if people who are actually inspired to participate spot things like that and feel a bit cheated? Mainly, it has to be said, by the individual driving the car, not by the 10:10 organisers (though if it’d been me I’d have imposed a car ban for invited guests – plus parking in Bankside must be awful).

And finally:

5. Stornoway, one of the bands who were playing outside the gallery building, were quite good and I’ve been enjoying finding out a bit more about their work. Here’s their MySpace page and here’s one of their full tracks on last.fm, which is quite lovely. They’re playing at the ICA in a few weeks, and I’m tempted to go along.

Anyway – just a few thoughts about the event and the campaign. Sign up, or let me know what you think about any of the above.

Or both!