Thrilled to hear from Cass Hebron, editor of The Green Fix, in today’s guest post with some fascinating insights about activism and how you can use social media for climate action. Enjoy!
What do you think of when you hear ‘activism’? Someone with a loudspeaker at a protest, perhaps? Or chaining themselves to the railings? What about climate action?
The truth is activism doesn’t always look dramatic. Whether you’re a full-time climate justice campaigner, a small ethical business or just a concerned citizen, you are capable of being a force for positive change. And these days we already have a powerful tool at our disposal for activism from home: our phones.
Sure, we need the people in the streets and the people in NGOs. But we also need the people and businesses on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook spreading the word and speaking up about environmental injustice. Movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo have used social media to grow their campaign with huge success.
Here’s seven ways you can harness your social media for climate action that actually make a difference:
Before you rush to post in solidarity with the latest campaign, listen and read up on it first. Posting a black square for #BlackLivesMatter and then doing nothing else to support the cause runs the risk of looking like you want points for caring without putting the work in.
You need to listen. Learn about the issues you want to post about. What does the movement actually need and what is the best way you can support them? What are you doing beyond posting a hashtag? Social media is a tool for activism and the start of your work for social and environmental justice.
2. Be Honest
I’m a climate activist and I am not zero-waste, or even plastic-free. I have a long way to go in learning about historic injustice. Part of committing to tackling environmental injustices means being transparent about what changes you need to make.
If you’re a business, this can look like evaluating unsustainable practices in your business operations and searching for alternatives, being honest about the struggles you’re facing in reducing your carbon footprint, or acknowledging if you need to work on the diversity and inclusiveness of your workplace.
For an individual, you will connect more with your followers if you show that you’re not perfect and explain the efforts you’re making to be more sustainable and engaged with the climate movement.
3. Suggest concrete action
Climate action needs… uh.. action. Spreading awareness about the climate crisis and the urgent need for action is great, however make it clear what action you want. If possible, make that action relevant to your followers. Is there a petition they can sign? A campaign they can support by an NGO? A politician they can tweet?
Many people are eco-anxious and overwhelmed by the number of crises around the world. Convert that anxiety into positive action.
4. Take concrete action
Like I said earlier, social media is not where your activism should begin and end. Share what it is you’re doing to take action on the issues you care about. Lead by example.
For example, if you are concerned about deforestation or plastic pollution, show what you’re doing about it. Go to protests, change your own lifestyle, find organisations working on these issues that you can share and support.
Consider yourself an activist that uses social media – not a social media activist.
5. Pass the mic
The climate movement needs the voices of everyone. If you have a social media platform – whether you have 5 followers or 5 million – you have a space to share with activists and experts in the movement.
Many groups struggle to be heard in the mainstream media and in political discussions about climate action – particularly people of colour and indigenous peoples, LGBTI+, low-income or disabled communities, and women. So take an extra step to include them on your platform.
For a business, this can look like offering social media ‘takeovers’ to activists from different backgrounds, interviews or partnerships with activist groups. For an individual, make sure to reshare the work of activists from all different sectors. An example, if you want to highlight the lack of indigenous representation in politics, it’s better to share the words of someone from the indigenous community directly rather than say it yourself.
6. Be consistent and clear
The most powerful and effective social media messaging is clear, concise and has a concrete goal – like this. Don’t leave any room for ambiguity in your stance.
It should be clear what your belief and your organisation’s belief is, and it should be clear what exactly you’re doing to uphold that value in your own life or business practices.
Don’t be afraid to name politicians responsible for changing certain laws. Call racism and injustice out for what it is. This is not the time to be tiptoeing around the topic.
7. Keep it up
Awareness days and months like Pride Month or International Women’s Day are good hooks for climate activism, however they shouldn’t be the only time of the year where you talk about these issues.
Making sure your social media content is inclusive and diverse year-round is far more effective for activism.
For a business, build inclusivity into your style guide and marketing strategy. Keep talking about issues after a month has ended.
Here is a good guide by Hootsuite on making social media a tool for genuine activism.