Using creativity to communicate about geoengineering

Cynthia Scharfby Cynthia Scharf / 17 May, 2018

I am at at the “Understanding Risk Forum” (UR2018) in Mexico, where I got a chance first hand to see how Pablo Suarez and his team from the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre are using the power of art to express some of the powerful emotions raised by the prospect of solar geoengineering.

This is a conversation whose outcome may be driven as much by values and instinct as by science and deliberative debate. Animation, music, puzzles and poetry are powerful media which can help us better understand and navigate the dramatic challenges which solar geoengineering may bring.

Pablo Suarez asks the existential question. (Pic: @JoKamenova)

Over a thousand stakeholders have gathered here from around the world, including governments, academia, civil society, donors, and private sector experts interested in the creation, communication and use of disaster risk information. C2G2 and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre are working together here to offer a tailored introduction to the risks (and potential benefits) raised by the prospect of solar geoengineering, focusing on implications for disaster risk managers.

You can see me talking a bit more about it in this interview with The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR).

One approach Pablo used was an animation that weaves IPCC science with Munch’s “The Scream”, Hokusai’s “Great Wave”, Tolkien’s “Lord of the Ring”, and Easter island Moai. By framing this in the context of well-known art and culture, he hopes to to spark a deeper level of engagement as people think about the humanitarian dimensions of solar geoengineering.

Filling in the geoengineering knowledge gaps (Pic: @Shanna_McClain)

He also created what may the world’s first Geoengineering Crossword Puzzle, shared both in paper form and through the NASA Hyperwall. Give it a try! If you need help with the answers, feel free to contact Pablo at [email protected].

In other briefings, Pablo and C2G2 have also used an interactive game to help people understand on a core level the intense difficulty of the choices that lie ahead.

From fear to fantasy, we are learning that creative approaches can turn an abstract topic like solar geoengineering into something far more approachable, whose essence we can understand in a more human level.

Art and games have a crucial role to play in helping audiences come to grips with the hard choices ahead, and we would be delighted to work with others interested in joining in.

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