Climate Change Needs Behavior Change

Organization Name: 
Impact Human

Entry Overview

Policymakers and high-level stakeholders may be swayed by data and macro-level reports; but it’s the addition of personal stories that turn climate and environmental injustices into urgent concerns requiring immediate policy action. For the rest of us, the former types of outputs may never reach our kitchen tables; but the stories of people impacted by climate and environmental injustices will. We believe that stories have the power to change perspectives and inspire action – indeed, that stories can bridge the gap between understanding and action. At Impact Human, we use photography, interviews, and policy research to underscore how climate and environmental injustices are impacting people right here and now, while providing folks with the tools to push for policy change.
General Information
First Name: 
Martha
Last Name: 
Molfetas
Organization type: 
  • Nonprofit
Email Address: 
martha@impacthuman.org
Address: 
332 Rogers Avenue, Apt. D9
Brooklyn
United States
40° 39' 53.9424" N, 73° 57' 14.8356" W
Challenge
Sectors impacted: 
  • Food and agriculture
  • Energy and transport
  • Land use and ecosystems
  • Material consumption
  • Other
Community type: 
  • Urban
  • Suburban
Population impacted: 
325.7 Million – the population of the US
Context Analysis
Describe the context in which you are operating: 
When we hear about climate change or environmental pollution in the news, we typically hear about macro-level statistics or international agreements. Think of a recent piece of media you watched, read, or listened to about climate or environmental issues. Chances are the media piece used charts, graphs, scientific models, and/or complicated terms to explain or contextualize topics. Often, it’s the human story that’s left out. Through project-based work, we’re able to share how climate change & environmental degradation are affecting real communities. These are local issues that require local solutions; but we cannot reach those solutions if people do not connect the symptoms of these issues with their underlying cause. We believe that stories instill empathy, and that awareness of policies drives engagement and empowers us all. By combining both, we believe we’ll see the change we so desperately need. Climate change is impacting us all and environmental pollution is devastating.
Solution
Describe the technical solution you wanted the target audience to adopt: 
Environmental stewardship is not a political issue – we all require a safe environment to live and thrive. We believe there is a missing link between the available technical knowledge of climate change and pollution, and the feeling that it will affect you directly. We want to close the gap. We are storytellers. Stories inspire action and increase awareness. Awareness builds political will. Political will changes the world. Through our emotive work, we hope to create behavior change that includes: climate and environmental voting, sustainable eating, climate and environmental conscious consumption. When we begin to see ourselves as both part of the problem and the solution, we will see the change we so desperately need.
Type of intervention implemented (category descriptions)
Select all that apply: 
  • Emotional appeals
  • Social incentives
Describe your behavioral intervention: 
Behavior change relies on empathy. Recent analysis done by Yale Climate Communications shows that during the summers and peak hurricane seasons, people’s attitudes towards climate change are more favorable regarding climate action and how climate change could impact them. If we as a society connect these events with ourselves, our impact, and our choices – that’s when we will see sweeping change. Our work is new, and our ability to create the sweeping change we desire is limited by our resources. However, the 150 people we’ve interacted with through face to face events have all left us with a desire to do more to act on climate change and environmental stewardship. This past Earth Day, we launched our Impact Pledge, an activism tool where people can commit to learning, sharing, and acting on climate change and environmental responsibility. As we grow, we hope to engage with local communities affected by environmental and climate injustices through events and storytelling workshops
As needed, please explain the type of intervention in more detail.: 
We’ve launched 3 projects, all focused on how sea level rise is affecting cities like Miami Beach, New York, and Dar es Salaam. We’ve been able to connect with nearly 150 people through partner events, gallery shows, and in-person expos to share our distinctive work. In 18 months, we’ve had over 1,800 unique visitors from over 40 countries to our website. We’ve built our in-person and online audiences organically, without paid advertising. Connecting our mission to action, we’ve joined two separate global coalitions: in support of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and to push for support to end fossil fuel exploration, the I’m Still In coalition and the Lofoten Declaration respectively. We cannot end climate and environmental injustice without making fossil fuels a thing of the past, nor without meaningful action to address the causes and consequences of climate change.
Implementation
Describe your implementation: 
Through interviews, photography, and policy research, we aim to add prescience to climate and environmental injustices happening around the world. In addition to focusing on storytelling as a platform, we have found success in telling local stories to local audiences. For our Hurricane Sandy Retrospective, we involved diverse voices from the NYC-Metro Area through an in-person event. Connecting personal narratives to local issues meant this project was more engaging and more effective than our prior projects. We aim to scale up our audience by launching a guest blog series this summer with experts and people working on climate and environmental pollution issues locally, grouped around the hashtags #ClimateChangeIsHere and #PollutionIsHere. This fall we are unveiling an Impact HumanRadio podcast series, where we will unpack these complex issues, translating them into relatable language and contexts for people. This is all aside from our planned forthcoming projects for 2018-19, which will include: Cape Town’s Water Crisis, Michigan’s PFAS Pollution and Water Security, Miami Revisited: King Tides Edition, and New Orleans: A City Grappling with Land Loss and Sea-Level Rise. We aim to work with local and community organizations focused on these issues to better engage with the areas affected and increase our audience. Please see our project pages here: www.impacthuman.org/ Miami Sea Level Rise: http://www.impacthuman.org/miami-sea-level-rise/ Displacement in Dar es Salaam: http://www.impacthuman.org/displacement-in-dar-es-salaam/ Sandy: A Retrospective: http://www.impacthuman.org/sandy-a-retrospective/
External connections: 
Currently, we have no outside stakeholders engaged with our novel work. In the coming months we hope to gain partnerships through grants and philanthropic funding to expand our work. We are currently reaching out to local organizations on the frontlines of these issues, hoping that now that we have proof of concept, they may want to work with us to do field research, interviews, photography, and engage local communities on these issues. As of now, no project partnerships have been implemented, but we are currently discussing potential projects on PFAS pollution with the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. We are also applying for a grant with the Everglades Foundation to do a project on agricultural run-off, water pollution, and algae blooms in Florida.
Results
Who adopted the desired behaviors and to what degree?: 
We do not have any experimental evidence. Our work is outreach education focused, educating the public through storytelling, and encouraging behavior change through emotional appeals.
How did you impact natural resource use and greenhouse gas emissions?: 
We have not had an impact on emissions, as far as we know. We do not focus on a specific community, we aim for our project based work to have a wide appeal, encouraging vast social change.
What were some of the resulting co-benefits?: 
We aim to see wide scale social change in the way we eat, consume, vote, and the information we share. Again, this is not quantifiable within our model, it relies on continued and persistent content that shows vast audiences how fragile our communities are in the face of climate change and environmental injustices.
Replication and Scale
Sustainability: 
We are still new to the scene, and hope to have the funding to propel our work further through more events, direct engagement with communities, storytelling trainings, more projects, podcasts, and the like. Currently, all our work is done on a voluntary basis with all of our funding coming from individual donations. Since our launch, we’ve raised nearly $9,000 in individual donations, which will go towards funding our upcoming projects and administrative costs. For 2018-19, we aim to raise at least $60,000 through grant and other philanthropic funding, which will allow us to conduct additional projects, scale up our work, and pay at least one staff member to commit 20-40 hours a week to the organization.
Return on investment: 
The first three projects have cost Impact Human $0 to launch, all costs have been underwritten by Directors and/or were done in conjunction with other projects Field Researchers were conducting. With no large-scale funding & an entirely volunteer staff, we’ve been able to connect with digital & in-person audiences on these important issues. After we achieve our funding goals, we plan to facilitate storytelling and visual media training workshops with community organizations at the frontlines of climate and pollution impacts. By providing skills training, we can help local organizations become ‘Impact Ambassadors’ with us. They can share local stories with us & other groups, & use storytelling as a vehicle for social & political change.
How could we successfully replicate this solution elsewhere?: 
Our approach can benefit a myriad of organizations and help inspire the sweeping social and political change. Storytelling is a vehicle for social change, one that connects us to each other and to the larger systemic issues at play. We believe our three-pronged approach can be replicated for others to increase awareness and drive local and national engagement on climate and environmental justice, as well as other challenges we as a society face. Our research informs audiences of the problems and the solutions available. Our photography engages visually, to show exactly what is at stake and who is affected. Our interviews provide a necessary human dynamic, driving these issues home; and translating them into ‘something that could happen to me’.

Contest Partners

conservation international logo
the nature conservancy logo
UNDP logo
world wildlife fund logo

Contest Sponsors

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
Humanize Institute
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