Telling Better Climate Stories at the Hollywood Climate Summit
Monday, July 8, 2024
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July 2024
Telling Better Climate Stories at the Hollywood Climate Summit
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Members of the marketing team reflect on major learnings from the Hollywood Climate Summit.

by Kylie Holloway and Chris Fanelli

The Hollywood Climate Summit is an annual gathering for media professionals to expand their climate knowledge, spark collaborations, and deepen their storytelling capabilities in communicating about this important issue. Chris Fanelli and Kylie Holloway from the Ethic studio spent four days rubbing shoulders with producers, writers, and storytellers who represent the leading voices in climate communication — including friends of Ethic Kristy Drutman and Rollie Williams, both of whom have appeared in our show Day Before Tomorrow. Panel topics ranged from communicating climate change to the next generation and exposing the “Mad Men” of big oil to spotlighting local stories in the climate fight. It was an engaging and exciting experience with so many takeaways. Here, we highlight some of the key learnings we gathered for wealth advisors, investors, and fellow media professionals communicating about this vital issue. 

Unlock understanding through curiosity. Science communicator and (in his words) “famed mechanical engineer” Bill Nye emphasized the importance of curiosity in fostering understanding. "We are in charge of a whole planet, we need to manage it," he said. "That takes understanding, and understanding takes curiosity.” Climate change can be a hot button and alienating topic to dive into. It may be more effective to begin by finding out what your audience is innately curious about and connect with them on that level. 

For example, if your audience is excited about something as simple as cooking good food, maybe you can use their interest in fresh vegetables or high quality ingredients to kick-start a conversation about how we continue to make those things accessible through sustainable agriculture. Curiosity leads to deeper connections and understanding, and can soften difficult conversations about a daunting issue. 

One panel guest, Maggie Baird, embodies this approach in her activism. Baird, founder of Support + Feed and mother to Grammy Award-winning artists Billie Eilish and Finneas, discussed her journey into climate activism, which started in her youth when she made the connection between climate change and animal agriculture. Support + Feed provides nourishing plant-based meals for underserved communities across the United States. Fellow panel guest Brad Wieners, editorial director at Patagonia, endorsed that sort of specified work as smart and effective climate work. He emphasized the collective exhaustion of trying to tackle something as large as the world's climate crisis, stressing that specified work within a field of interest or passion can be the most effective way to contribute.

Use simple equivalencies. In a panel on effectively communicating about a clean energy future, Jennifer M. Granholm, U.S. Secretary of the Department of Energy, was joined by director Patty Jenkins (Wonder Woman). While the pairing was unexpected to say the least, we did glean a valuable piece of advice that we already emulate at Ethic — the use of simple equivalencies to make complex topics more relatable. 

One example Secretary Granholm used was to explain the building of solar capacity “in terms of Hoover dams." Tangible, familiar equivalencies can help the public grasp the scale and impact of renewable energy projects. This approach can demystify technical subjects and make them more accessible to a broader audience.

Leave cynicism at the door: Vulnerability and action. The producers and hosts of the Drilled podcast partnered with the Carmack Collective on a panel on the role of big business in climate disinformation. Here, panelists collectively stressed the importance of vulnerability in environmental communication. "The two places that don’t require action or vulnerability are hopelessness and having your head in the sand," one speaker noted. Embracing vulnerability is challenging but essential for genuine engagement and meaningful action. The pathway to vulnerability begins with leaving cynicism at the door and creating a space where hopeful and constructive conversations around impact can take place.

Don’t be afraid of repetition. At the same panel, the speakers addressed the long history of advertising industries that have negatively impacted the environment. Specifically, they noted that while communication about sustainability is about 100 years behind oil and gas advertising, the key to catching up lies in good, clear, and reliable communication. 

One panelist said, “Our job is harder than the people communicating that nothing needs to change,” which was incredibly resonant for our team. The work of communicating impact is difficult. So on that note, don’t be afraid of repetition; it can take a while for a message to get through." Changing the methods of communication without altering the core message can help reinforce important narratives and drive change.

Allow for duality. Host of America Outdoors and former Daily Show producer Baratunde Thurston said something that really struck a chord with the team. He likened the current crisis to "a funeral and baby shower at the same time." He spoke about the need to balance grief over what has been lost with hope and excitement for what can be accomplished. 

Thurston advised allowing for nondualism, recognizing that we can hold multiple emotions and perspectives simultaneously. It’s important to recognize that there is frustration and disappointment in the fight to build a better future. However, allowing for excitement and joy over our victories and the inspirational work of so many climate leaders is also crucial for maintaining momentum and motivation in environmental advocacy.

Take part in a growing community. Perhaps the largest takeaway from the summit is the paramount need for climate-related content. Whether it's documenting the work being done in frontline communities, representing the realities of climate change in narrative content, or demystifying the science behind climate, there is an urgent need for content creators of all sizes to make their voices heard in the fight against climate change. Networks, grantmakers, and scientists are eager to work with creators to harness the power of storytelling in the effort to address a changing climate.

This summit provided a wealth of strategies and perspectives for those involved in communicating impact in the climate crisis. By fostering curiosity, embracing authenticity, balancing complex emotions, simplifying communication, and maintaining vulnerability, we can more effectively engage investors and inspire action towards a sustainable future.

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Sources and footnotes

Ethic Inc. is a Registered Investment Adviser located in New York, NY. Registration of an investment adviser does not imply any level of skill or training. Information pertaining to Ethic Inc’s registration or to obtain a copy of Ethic Inc.’s current written disclosure statement discussing Ethic Inc.’s business operations, services and fees is available on the SEC’s Investment Adviser Public Information website – or from Ethic Inc. upon written request at Information provided herein is for informational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Any subsequent, direct communication by Ethic Inc. with a prospective client shall be conducted by a representative of Ethic Inc. that is either registered or qualifies for an exemption or exclusion from registration in the state where a prospective client resides. Information contained herein may be carefully compiled from third-party sources that Ethic Inc. believes to be reliable, but Ethic Inc. cannot guarantee the accuracy of any third-party information.

Ethic Inc. does not render any legal, accounting, or tax advice. Ethic Inc. recommends all investors seek the services of competent professionals in any of the aforementioned areas. Ethic Inc. cannot provide any assurances that any investment strategies, simulations, etc. will perform as described in our materials. ALL INVESTMENTS INVOLVE RISK, ARE NOT GUARANTEED, AND MAY LOSE VALUE. BE SURE TO FIRST CONSULT WITH A QUALIFIED FINANCIAL ADVISER AND/OR TAX PROFESSIONAL BEFORE IMPLEMENTING ANY STRATEGY.


Chris Fanelli is a multimedia creator with a focus on comedy and the absurd. His work as a writer-director-performer has been featured in various independent streaming platforms and film festivals.

Kylie Holloway is a performer, producer, and writer from Sacramento, CA. Kylie attended UC San Diego and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School before moving to NYC to pursue comedy. She has performed and produced live shows such as the New York Times-recommended Great Outdoors Variety, Nevertheless She Existed, and Blood in the Water: Queens Drag Sharks. As a podcast producer, she has worked with Vox Media and NY Magazine as well as scrappy startups like CaveatMedia. She also spent many years as a tour guide and creative consultant at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, the Museum of Fine Art: Boston, and museums around the world.

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