15 Oct 2014
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Nature is speaking, but is anyone listening? CI launch film series

Nature has become the narrator in a series of short films from Conservation International. The films not only reveal the many voices of nature but deliver a powerful message to humanity: Nature doesn’t need people, but people need nature.

Through the films we meet Mother Nature, the ocean, the soil, the water, the rainforest and the coral reef, with each element voiced by one of Hollywood’s finest, including Harrison Ford, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Penelope Cruz, Robert Redford and Edward Norton. 

The short films are part of an awareness campaign by the environmental organization Conservation International, which aims to change the focus of environmental campaigns – this is not about saving the polar bears this is about saving humanity.

Conservation International says: “Human beings are part of nature. Nature is not dependent on human beings to exist. Human beings, on the other hand, are totally dependent on nature to exist.”

“Nature will go on, no matter what. It will evolve. The question is will it be with us or without us?”

The #NatureisSpeaking campaign, launched at SXSW Eco in Texas earlier this month. The aim is inspire young people to think about solutions to the many serious environmental challenges that the world is facing. 

The films have been created by TBWA Media Arts Lab and advertising legend and TBWA Chairman Lee Clow.  

  • REVIEW 
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Conservation International is on a mission to reframe the conversation about the environment and these films are the first wave of the attack. 

Punchy, confrontational and powerful, this is an environmental campaign like you’ve never seen before. 

Forget the lone polar bear swimming in vast oceans, forget the fear of food and water shortages – this is about the end of humanity and the power of nature to adapt, evolve and keep going on without us.

This messaging is the real power behind the films, this shift in strategy away from the big fragile world of problems to the very human problem is a stroke of genius. So many environmental campaigns fail to connect with people because of the messaging and sheer scale of the problems, by narrowing the focus and appealing to selfish motivations, Conservation International is starting a very different conversation with audiences. 

Dr. M. Sanjayan, Conservation International’s executive vice president and senior scientist said: “The environmental movement has missed the mark when talking about nature, because it tends to present nature as something that is separate from people. By making it clear that people need nature to survive, we are turning the conversation around and making the movement relevant to entirely new audiences.”

Sanjayan, told The Guardian: “It’s not about nature being this fragile thing we need to take care of. We need to take care of nature because it gives us everything. It’s in our own enlightened self-interest.”

As I write this in Sydney, the city is cleaning up after a massive electrical storm which caused flash flooding, fires from lighting strikes and snow. In fact, the snow fell in areas which 12 months ago were devastated by sweltering heat and bush fires.  And it’s spring time. From this perspective it’s easy to take in this message from nature and the sense that the solutions are in our hands. 

The strategy here is so, so smart. The shift away from the fragility of earth to a more selfish messaging is just brilliant and it really packs a punch. The campaign speaks to our selfishness and our prima urge to survive. 

Lee Clow told Fast Company: "I just think if you want a lot of people to care about what you care about you need to hit an emotional chord that isn’t based on fear or heavy-handed tactics.” 

"So many of the groups speaking about conservation and climate change assume that man can fix the planet, as opposed to the idea that nature has been here for billions of years and we’ve been here for a nanosecond of that time span. 

“Nature will be here long after us, so the idea that we can fix nature is I think kind of preposterous, but the idea that we desperately need nature and we better be the best stewards we can be because of that, might be a more democratic and all-inclusive appeal. 

“As opposed to right versus left, corporations versus ecologists, this is about the human race versus extinction. It’s all of us, as opposed to various factions and groups."

The films are beautifully shot and scripted. The actors and actresses bring wonderful characters to life and each embodies a different sort of loathing for humanity. 

From the growl of Harrison Ford as the Ocean, to the sarcasm of Kevin Spacey as Rainforest, to the cool indifference of Julia Robert’s Mother Nature: these films are superbly made to elicit strong emotion and get people thinking. (I particularly like Penelope Cruz as Water.) 

And there’s plenty more to come. Conservation International plans to release more films in the coming weeks as it seeks to get people talking about the issues and working towards solutions. 

The films do a great job of highlighting the issues and reframing the conversation, the question is how much impact will they have? The answer to that is yet to be seen. However it will definitely get attention and spread awareness, which can only be good thing, right? 

  • VERDICT 
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A brilliant strategy and change in direction for environmental campaigning and some beautifully crafted films. I give it 4 stars. 


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