ES­SAY

Naresh Ramchandani re­veals how cre­ativ­ity can in­spire a sus­tain­able life

Computer Arts - - Contents - NARESH RAMCHANDANI Part­ner at Pen­ta­gram www.pen­ta­gram.com

Naresh Ramchandani looks at how cre­ativ­ity can spark a greener life

Iam priv­i­leged to be one of the peo­ple who runs a non-profit pub­lic ser­vice called Do The Green Thing. We use world-class cre­ativ­ity to in­spire as many peo­ple as pos­si­ble to live more sus­tain­ably, and have done so for 10 years.

I say 10 years, be­cause 10 is in­ter­est­ing. We like to cel­e­brate and com­mem­o­rate the world in 10s – 10th birthdays, 20th an­niver­saries, 50-year lease ex­ten­sions – be­cause most of us hu­mans have 10 fin­gers and hu­man­ity is self-cen­tred.

And be­cause we’re self-cen­tred, we con­sume as much as we do, fly or drive or Uber wher­ever we can, buy as much as we want, walk around in well-lit and well-heated homes any time of the year, re­fus­ing to con­sider what it means for others in other parts of the world, or for gen­er­a­tions to come.

We’re rais­ing sea lev­els, cre­at­ing floods and droughts, mak­ing cli­mate mi­grants, in­creas­ing epi­demics and ac­cel­er­at­ing ex­tinc­tion – but that’s all fine be­cause we’re liv­ing the way we want.

Hu­man­ity is head­ing to­wards a precipice, and we know what to do to save our­selves, which is to tone down our many shades of ram­pant con­sumerism. But it’s an ev­ery­day strug­gle to do it, be­cause the con­se­quences are not on our watch, and the ones that are on our watch are not on our patch, and be­cause right here right now we are pre­sented with so many cool, in­dul­gent and frankly tempt­ing ways to be un­sus­tain­able, made de­li­cious by in­no­va­tion.

And when we look across at the prin­ci­pal cam­paign­ers – san­dal wear­ers, tree hug­gers, cli­mate sci­en­tists, all telling us what we ought to do, or rather, what we ought to do with­out, it’s just too easy not to be tempted.

So our ap­proach is to use the same in­ven­tion, de­sign and com­mu­ni­ca­tion that makes un­sus­tain­abil­ity so de­sir­able, and use it to make sus­tain­abil­ity just as at­trac­tive. To ditch the san­dals, and walk in the minds and shoes of reg­u­lar peo­ple, giv­ing them the choice to be cre­ative and the means to do it.

That’s the Do The Green Thing the­ory. Our flag is ‘Cre­ativ­ity vs Cli­mate Change’, and we wave in var­i­ous ways. Per­haps our big­gest cre­ative en­deav­our is to bring hu­mour and its sib­ling, charm, to cli­mate change com­mu­ni­ca­tions. Cli­mate change com­mu­ni­ca­tion of­ten wears its grav­ity and panic heav­ily: the need to scream pro­duces a scream.

And while there’s noth­ing funny about global warm­ing, a film that par­o­dies our lazi­ness in tak­ing en­ergy-greedy lifts, a poster that com­pares feet favourably to cars, an­other that asks you not only to cy­cle to work but to cy­cle back too; these and many other Do The Green Thing films, posters, poems and sto­ries all bring a light­ness to cli­mate change com­mu­ni­ca­tion that in our view is needed.

Se­ri­ous­ness works on a global level. But on an in­di­vid­ual level se­ri­ous­ness can de­bil­i­tate. It can cause us to feel there’s noth­ing mean­ing­ful we can do. So we do noth­ing.

But as long as hu­man­ity’s op­ti­mism re­mains, light­ness has the mag­i­cal ef­fect of help­ing us to look up, look out, smile and try some­thing. To take that step. In a soft but pow­er­ful way, light­ness drives ac­tion.

Light­ness can nudge us to act, but some­times it takes more than a nudge. Some­times de­light­ful cre­ativ­ity needs to come at the end of a mas­sive kick in the be­hind to the in­dus­tries, com­pa­nies, in­sti­tu­tions and tra­di­tions that make it so hard for us to be­have sus­tain­ably. We do it dar­ingly.

We’ve dared to com­pare drivers’ rights or­gan­i­sa­tions to the self-in­ter­ested bul­ly­ing of gun lob­bies. We’ve dared to ask en­vi­ron­men­tally in­clined mu­sic fes­ti­vals why they in­sist on serv­ing meat. We’ve dared to chal­lenge Hol­ly­wood to wake up to its cul­tural power, to stop screen­ing con­sump­tion gorge­fests and to usher in green ac­tions into the mar­gins of its films, just as it helped to usher out smok­ing.

We’ve pro­voked or in­voked Mercedes-Benz, Kate Moss, Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures, Steve Jobs, and even Santa Claus, al­ways with charm, be­cause we’re not ac­tivists, al­ways with a view to dis­arm­ing the dam­ag­ing spell they weave over the con­sumers.

Yes, we say it as it is. And maybe this trait has harmed our abil­ity to get funded, and stopped us get­ting long-term ar­range­ments with brands and me­dia to dis­trib­ute our con­tent. But it means we have the in­de­pen­dence to make our work as sharp and brave as it can be, and that mat­ters.

Our cen­tral cre­ative qual­ity has been our re­source­ful­ness. In a re­source-scarce world, much of our work has been cre­atively re­source­ful, start­ing with some­thing old and hav­ing the imag­i­na­tion and free­dom to turn it into some­thing new.

The free­dom to take old hang­ers and old wine glasses and com­bine them into new vases. The free­dom to call for thou­sands of sin­gle gloves left on buses, trains and the­atres across Lon­don, and turn them into low-cost, low car­bon-cost pairs called Glove Love. The free­dom to rein­vent the on­line Christ­mas card as an anti-use­less-gift­ing ser­vice, Ungifted, al­low­ing you to pledge your valu­able time to a friend in place of use­less scented can­dles or bath bombs.

As a small team, we know what we can do, and we know what needs to be done, and we know we can’t do it all; not even close. So we aren’t afraid to ask others for help. We ask a far­reach­ing and ever-widen­ing cir­cle of in­spir­ingly tal­ented and com­mit­ted col­lab­o­ra­tors to help us on a more or less vol­un­tary ba­sis. The Paula Sch­ers and Sir Quentin Blakes of this world, as well as the hundreds of bril­liant thinkers, de­sign­ers and com­mu­ni­ca­tors who have worked with us to cre­ate won­der­ful pieces of per­sua­sion. With their ef­forts, Do The Green Thing has made ‘Cre­ativ­ity vs Cli­mate Change’ a re­alised idea.

To­gether, our shades of cre­ativ­ity - light­ness, dar­ing and re­source­ful­ness - de­liver this one mes­sage. That when you take away con­sump­tion, there’s no need for de­pri­va­tion – for a de­void and empty life – be­cause you can fill it many times over with imag­i­na­tion.

That’s how we Do The Green Thing. If you’d like to help us do it, please get in touch, and let’s do some­thing good.

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