Artists and scientists join forces to improve climate change communication


Message From Antarctica 2

Image credit: Chris Haughton / Hay Festival.

By Anders Lorenzen

Despite the reality of climate change becoming starker year on year, much of climate science and research still struggles to filter down to the public and newspaper editors. To deal with this challenge the Hay Festival, which runs from the 24th of May to the 3rd of June in Hay-on-Wye in rural Wales, has joined forces with the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to unveil a new initiative: Trans.MISSION. A series of short films which should help aid the communication of climate change and other environmental issues.


Emily Shuckburgh during the launch of Trans.MISSION. Photo credit: Anders Lorenzen.

In each film, three scientists team up with three artists looking at a different way to communicate the complex issues that the public often finds abstract and alien, and it is hoped the initiative will increase engagement with these crucial issues.

Alison Robinson, NERC Director of Corporate Affairs, said about the collaborative project: “Understanding our changing planet is fundamental to all our futures, and art has the power to start conversations around how our environment – and environmental science – affects our lives. These collaborations bring together high-profile illustrators and authors with NERC’s leading researchers in creating striking short animations, using powerful words and images, to show why environmental science matters to all our lives. It’s great to see these works bring out the importance of our science in such an engaging way – from the rapid changes in the Antarctic to the quality of the air we breathe here at home in the UK.”

The films

In ‘Message from Antarctica’, produced by designer and illustrator Chris Haughton and climate and polar scientist Emily Shuckburgh, we look at how scientists are measuring the impacts of CO2 over time. Through illustrations, the film distils the science behind global warming into a clear message

In ‘Clean Air Starts at Home’ by Dan Binns and Ally Lewis (voiced by Marcus Brigstocke) the focus in on air pollution, but not the kind of air pollution you are used to hearing about – but air pollution inside the home. Aardman Animation Studios director Dan Binns teams up with atmospheric chemist Ally Lewis to explore the impacts of air pollution beyond cars and exhaust pipes.

‘Weather Watching’ by Nicola Davies and Ed Hawkins is a series of films highlighting the increase of extreme weather events. Poet Nicola Davies teams up with climate scientist Ed Hawkins to explore the interplay of climate and weather in a series of poems played along images.

Andy Fryers, Sustainability Director at Hay Festival, said about the project: “Hay Festival is one of the few places where artists, scientists and policy-makers share the same stage, blending disciplines and art forms in exciting ways. Trans.MISSION collides these worlds in a new and exciting way and the resulting trio of new films offers a new take on the biggest issues facing our planet.”


UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove launches Trans.MISSION. Photo credit: Anders Lorenzen.

The initiative was launched at the festival on Saturday by UK’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

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