Adeela Warley: Our choices of medium, message and storyteller are influential

Communication drives culture and behaviour, so it pays to be alert to the narratives around us

Adeela Warley
Adeela Warley

Few films constitute a turning point in history, but Sir David Attenborough’s BBC documentary Climate Change: The Facts comes close, marking a long-awaited shift in public discourse.

Safe in the hands of the man whose stories of the natural world have astonished and moved us for decades, the documentary felt hard-wired with integrity and trust.

Moving from the altitude of climate science to the lived experience on the ground, the film showed Australian conservationists gathering thousands of dead bats in wheelbarrows, captured the terror of a father and son fleeing Californian wildfires and depicted Greta Thunberg’s lone vigil outside the Swedish parliament, which sparked a global movement.

The most powerful and surprising aspect was the film’s unequivocal commentary on the role of the fossil-fuel industry in spinning a climate-sceptic narrative, undermining credible climate science and stifling public confidence and the propensity to act.

The choices we make about medium, message and storyteller are influential. Communication is not passive but drives culture and behaviour, and can resonate far beyond the screen or the page.

In these febrile times our messages spread in seconds and catalyse opinion for good or ill. In conversation about his latest novel, the author Ian McEwan described a sense of living "in a race with ourselves and our own ingenuity" in a world that is "copious, with lots of hope and lots of misery".

It pays to be alert to the narratives around us and to use our gift for communication with purpose and accountability to those who listen.

Adeela Warley is chief executive of CharityComms

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