10 Years to Save the World’ is one of the 17 recently announced Creative Commissions, engaging young people around the world to address climate change through art, science and digital technology. It is part of the British Council’s global platform, The Climate Connection. Using the medium of comics to directly communicate with 18 - 25 year olds, ‘10 Years to Save the World’ brings together the work of ten leading comic artists and two comic art festivals; The Lakes International Comic Art Festival in the UK and Komiket in the Philippines, working alongside climate change communications specialists Creative Concern.
We caught up with Chris Dessent, the Managing Director of Creative Concern, to find out more about the power of comics in communication, the urgency for us to recognise our role in taking positive action against the climate crisis and the timing of his project taking place in the run up to COP26 in Glasgow this autumn.
"Art will always be a method for us to make sense of our world, to document the changes we see around us and crucially, to drive the changes that are needed in society."
How did you develop the idea of 10 Years To Save The World?
Us humans are a clever lot when we put our minds to it. Take your pick, the internet, the smart phone, life-saving vaccines, antibiotics, space travel, solar power…the list of inventions and human endeavours is astonishing. But now we face our biggest challenge. It’s also on a scale and level of urgency that is beyond anything we have previously encountered.
Climate change is the biggest threat to life on earth. It’s a threat to us and to all species. We have moved way beyond climate change being something to worry about in the future; the climate has already changed and is continuing to change right now, all over the world. We are living in the climate crisis, it’s right on top of us.
I’ve been working to communicate the risks and impacts of climate change for twenty years. In that time, it’s gone from something on the margins of public consciousness, reported in specialist scientific journals right into the mainstream and into our homes.
The momentum of the climate movement has been accelerated dramatically thanks to some key individuals most notably Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough. For me this has illustrated two things, it has demonstrated the power of individuals to make a global difference, but it has also illustrated the power and importance of communications. Both Greta and Attenborough have, in very different ways, excelled at communications – using their personal influence and reach to drive change.
Please can you tell us more about 10 Years to Save the World?
I believe comics as a communications medium has the power to change the world too. The power of pictures, short-form storytelling and graphic novels can make us see the world in new ways and from new perspectives. Comics can bring alternative voices to the forefront and reach new audiences in a way that is both relevant and authentic.
‘10 Years to Save the World’ is one of the Creative Commissions supported by the British Council exploring climate change through art, science and digital technology. The project has an urgent message, we have ten years to make the big changes required to save our planet, it’s as simple as that.
The commission demonstrates the power of the comics to stimulate climate change action through the creation of a comic art digital anthology. Aimed at 15 - 24-year-olds, the project brings together two comic art festivals – The Lakes International Comic Art Festival in the UK and Komiket in the Philippines, working alongside climate change communications specialists Creative Concern.
The work, by ten leading comic artists, five in the Philippines and five in the UK is an incredible showcase for the diversity and power of comics.
Crucially, the work has been informed and shaped by young people from both countries, who took part in online discussions to develop the artist’s brief. The discussions were lively and incredibly insightful. What became clear was that young people were tired of being told how they should change their behaviour, while big business and governments failed to take responsibility for the problems they had caused. The advice to the artists from both the UK and the Philippines was clear. In short, make it direct, expose those who are causing the problem and tell people that the climate crisis is a human crisis.
As one of the young people expressed, we need to look at the world in a completely different way “We must also change our mindset about the world being ours. The world is not created for us, but we are created for the world.”
Can comics really change the world?
This digital anthology we hope demonstrates the important role art and specifically comic art can play in responding to the climate crisis. Art has always been more than the making of marks on a page, canvas or a screen. Art will always be a method for us to make sense of our world, to document the changes we see around us and crucially, to drive the changes that are needed in society. Art has the power to shine a light in the darkest places of our planet and our soul and to seek out hope and enlightenment. The partners in this project believe that comics can change the world and now, more than ever, we need to use their strength as a force for good.
We hope after reading this anthology you’ll see that comics can change the world too.
Where can we see your project in action and find out more?
The 10 Years to Save the World project will culminate in the launch of ten comics, in a variety of forms including short-form stories, comic puppetry and comics installation. The works will be published on the project website in late September. Here you will be able to read, share or download the comics and we’ll be linking people to the campaigns and organisations who are taking action on the climate crisis.
The project will be officially launched in the Philippines at the PICOF comic festival on 25 September and in the UK as part of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, 15-17 October in Kendal.
Beyond the launch the work will also be exhibited in Manchester and Kendal with two public exhibitions. The exhibition in Manchester will run from 1 – 12 November at See Saw, 86 Princess Street, Manchester and the Kendal exhibition will be 11 October to 25 October at The Wildman Street Gallery, Kendal.
The project is still gathering momentum and we will be launching a competition for schools shortly. Keep an eye on the website for more details www.10yearstosavetheworld.com.
Thank you to all of the artists and to the British Council for making this project possible. You can help contribute to 10 Years to Save the World by sharing the comic artwork and stories on your own channels or with your organisation. The artwork can be viewed on the website from the end of September at www.10yearstosavetheworld.com.
Find out more about British Council Creative Commissions here.