An outstanding panel on climate change communication and the information landscape: from art to technology, architecture to media, to the use of artificial intelligence to recognize fake news. A selection of cutting-edge projects that bring together the knowledge, awareness, and action of almost 200 candidates for the second edition of the CMCC Climate Change Communication Award “Rebecca Ballestra”.
Among the participants are John Cook, founder of the award-winning website Skeptical Science, who will join in dialogue with Paula Gori from the European Digital Media Observatory on the topic of misinformation; Stefano Boeri Architetti bringing their unique perspectives to the table; Karen Florini with Climate Central’s American journalism; this year’s winner Milan Jacob, a visual storytelling expert chronicling resilience in India; the art and science project team of The Cooling Solution; the podcast Bello Mondo, a podcast that brings research and media together through the authors Elisa Palazzi and Federico Taddia; and Jeff Biggers with his theatrical monologue.
The main challenges for the communication sector and the role of information based on scientific knowledge in supporting the climate transition have been at the core of the event “Foresight Dialogues 2023: Our planet, climate and society,” organized on November 16 by the CMCC Foundation – Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change – in the context of the Earth Technology Expo at the Fortezza da Basso in Florence. The event, which hosted leading international experts and the most innovative climate change communication projects, brought the second edition of the CMCC Climate Change Communication Award “Rebecca Ballestra,” the CMCC’s initiative that promotes, rewards and creates a network of the best climate change communication initiatives around the world to a close.
The event opened with a discussion on the topic of misinformation with Australian expert John Cook, Senior Research Fellow at the Melbourne Centre for Behaviour Change at the University of Melbourne and professor at the Center for Climate Change Communication. Following his studies in cognitive science, Cook founded Skeptical Science, the award-winning climate disinformation website and developed Cranky Uncle, a gaming app that trains critical thinking as an antidote to misinformation and one of the projects selected for the CMCC Award 2023. With the moderation of Mauro Buonocore, Head of the Communication and Media Office at CMCC, Cook engaged in dialogue with Paula Gori, Secretary General and Coordinator of the European Digital Media Observatory, European University Institute, identifying the main critical issues facing the world of information – from traditional media to social media – when dealing with complex issues such as climate change. The panelists reflected upon the content and techniques that the most recent research identifies as valuable in addressing such issues, from the use of new technologies, including tools that employ artificial intelligence to identify fake news, and applications that, based on cognitive science, use playful experiences to make users immune to disinformation.
Joining online from Princeton, Karen Florini, Vice President for Strategic Impact at Climate Central, brought attention to the importance of making available to communication professionals – whether media, nongovernmental organizations, government, educational institutions, or businesses – a continuous stream of timely, ready-to-use imagery and data analysis to efficiently and effectively reach their audiences. Florini presented the cutting-edge tools provided by Climate Central available to communications professionals who use science, big data and technology to create local stories, such as the weekly Climate Matters bulletin, with graphical content in high geographic resolution, and the Climate Shift Index, which shows the influence of climate change on temperatures in 60,000 cities every day.
From information to art, using a multimedia narrative, Jeff Biggers, American journalist and writer, brought attention to processes of regenerative urban planning and climate migration, narrating the extraordinary transformation of a city that has become a benchmark for climate resilience.
Representing the jury of the CMCC Award 2023, Jeff Biggers announced the winning project of this year’s edition of the Award, standing out among nearly 200 eligible initiatives from around the world admitted to the 2023 edition of the competition. The Award went to Faces of Climate Resilience, a project conceived and implemented by the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW), highlighting the human side of climate communication through storytelling of local resilience in India, giving a voice to the most vulnerable people and avoiding catastrophizing.
Alongside the voice of Milan George Jacob, Communications Specialist at CEEW and coordinator of the project, the authors of the three special mentions were hosted. Special mentions were awarded to Green Obsession, project by Stefano Boeri Architetti, Bello Mondo, podcast by Elisa Palazzi and Federico Taddia, and to the art-science project The Cooling Solution, created by the ENERGYA research team, Gaia Squarci, Elementsix and Kublaiklan.
The CMCC Award 2023
The Climate Change Communication Award “Rebecca Ballestra” is the biennial Award organized by the CMCC Foundation as part of the global platform that collects and connects over 300 of the best projects dedicated to communicating climate change around the world.
This initiative honors the memory of the artist Rebecca Ballestra, who was committed to shaping a sustainable future and promoting positive transformation processes in the fields of science, humanities, economy, ecology and art. Ballestra collaborated with the CMCC Foundation in many cultural initiatives. With this award, the CMCC wanted to follow up on her vision of “creating a platform that brings together different experiences, shares knowledge and attempts to really transform our future”.
The 2023 CMCC Climate Change Communication Award received double the number of applications compared to the previous edition, with 372 submissions from all over the world. Among the candidates, 183 projects from 52 different countries were deemed eligible for the Award: a varied ensemble of communication initiatives that give an insightful overview of the sector’s latest innovations. New voices are represented through participatory initiatives that connect audiences with communication professionals and value different types of knowledge as important assets for a green transition. Art is used as a way of representing cutting-edge results of climate science such as projections of future sea levels, trends in past glacial melt and the impacts of human activities on landscapes. New technologies, such as virtual reality, are employed to convey a more clear image of what the future of our planet will look like. Together with the participants we embark on a journey to discover climate stories from a local to a global level. From the top of the European Alps to the depth of the Atlantic ocean, different storytelling techniques capture our senses with breathtaking images and original content.
The winning project: Faces of Climate Resilience
Faces of Climate Resilience, a project that highlights the human side of climate communication through storytelling, is the winner of the CMCC Climate Change Communication Award “Rebecca Ballestra” second edition.
Faces of Climate Resilience is a 16 parts short-documentary series that captures the voices of people in some of India’s most climate-vulnerable regions. The project strives to make climate change more tangible beyond data through the lived experiences of people. The focus is on how individuals and communities are adapting to the climate crisis by embracing nature-based solutions and traditional wisdom. Faces of Climate Resilience was conceptualized and executed by the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW), one of Asia’s leading not-for-profit policy research institutions, whose climate risks research formed the backbone of the series. This project was also done in partnership with India Climate Collaborative, Edelgive Foundation, and Drokpa Films.
The project received a cash prize of 5,000 Euro, and was selected by an international jury composed by Carolina Aragon, Artist and Professor at UMass Amherst, Jeff Biggers, Author, Founder of the Climate Narrative Project, Mauro Buonocore, Head of the Communication and Media Office at CMCC, Fiona McDonald, Visual Anthropologist at the University of British Columbia e Giuseppe La Spada, Water Artist.
The jury evaluated all eligible projects based on criteria including their innovation potential, impact, ability to reach new and broad audiences and reliability of information and data provided.
“Faces of Climate Resilience conveys a powerful message of resilience through the art of filmmaking focusing on some of the most marginalized communities and climate-vulnerable areas in India,” reads the Jury’s note. “The project gives voice to those at the forefront of the impacts of climate change. The short films help expand our understanding not only of how climate change is affecting the most vulnerable communities, but also demonstrate the role of local knowledge and action in strengthening vulnerable communities’ resilience to the impacts of the climate emergency. Through storytelling as a poetic approach, Faces of Climate Resilience humanizes climate communication in the true spirit of Rebecca Ballestra’s work, in line with her project Journey to Fragility, which emphasized both environmental and social aspects of climate change and looked into human interventions and responsibilities towards the natural environment.”
The stories include a women’s collective in Odisha replanting trees along a cyclone-prone coast, a youth group in suburban Mumbai sensitizing slum dwellers about climate change, a women-led group in Uttarakhand working with local forest officials in combating forest fires, a community radio station broadcasting early warning messages and programmes on disaster preparedness, an NGO helping pastoralists in Rajasthan adapt to harsh summers and winter through climate resilient infrastructure, and a Kerala town climate proofing its infrastructure after disastrous floods.
The project coordinator Milan George Jacob, Communications Specialist at CEEW, said at the Award ceremony: “It’s a great honor that Faces of Climate Resilience has been selected as the winning project for the CMCC Climate Change Communication Award Rebecca Ballestra 2023. Complex science around the climate crisis needs more relatable human-centric stories. Climate communications also need new hopeful narratives and a focus on solutions. We’ve tried to marry the two through the 16 short documentaries. By highlighting climate adaptation at India’s grassroots, the project also aimed to give agency to communities at the forefront of building climate resilience in the Global South. However, the criticality of communications often takes a back seat in the climate science discourse. Money must flow into more such projects to nudge improved citizen participation in climate action.”
The special mentions
In addition to the winning project, the jury awarded a special mention to the project The Cooling Solution, which used a synergy of photography and science to show how people from different cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds adapt to high temperature and humidity conditions, in temperate and tropical countries. The project, according to the jury, “merits special recognition for its innovative and compelling mix of photography, storytelling and scientific research in chronicling the spiraling cycles of air-conditioning dependency and the myriad human experiences of heat impacts and resilience in Italy, Brazil, India and Indonesia, along with alternatives for traditional and cutting-edge technologies for alternative cooling methods and architecture.”
“It is a great honor to receive the special mention of the Jury of the CMCC Climate Change Communication Award ‘Rebecca Ballestra’ 2023 for our project The Cooling Solution,” said Enrica De Cian, Professor at Ca’Foscari University of Venice and Jacopo Crimi, science communication expert at Elementsix. “We truly believe in the transformative power of art and its blending with science to raise awareness on pressing environmental challenges. The success of such a complex project, which included a photographic exhibition, a print and digital version of a catalog integrating photography, narrative and scientific outcomes, was made possible only thanks to the close synergy between very different and skilled collaborators: the scientific supervision by the ENERGYA research team, the suggestive photography by Gaia Squarci, the careful curatorship and graphics by Kublaiklan, and an attentive coordination of the whole work by Elementsix.”
During the event two special mentions were also awarded by CMCC.
The first, intended for the best project in the Italian language, was awarded to the podcast “Bello Mondo” by Elisa Palazzi, researcher at CNR and professor at Università di Torino, and Federico Taddia, radio host, television presenter and journalist. The authors said, “Receiving this mention for us is a wonderful surprise, an unexpected satisfaction and an additional responsibility. We have chosen, in recent years, to explore many faces of dissemination, and to contaminate languages and targets in order to make science truly accessible to all: this recognition is a further incentive to narrate in every possible way a complex and necessary topic such as the climate and the impacts – not only in negative, but also in positive and proactive terms – that the actions of us women and men living on this planet can have.”
The second special mention by CMCC has been awarded to the project Green Obsession, Trees Towards Cities, Humans Towards Forests by Stefano Boeri Architetti for its multidisciplinarity and ability to link communication to solutions. “Green areas offer extraordinary benefits, helping to mitigate urban heat – making cities more livable – and to absorb CO2 and particulate matter, making cities and our lungs healthier,” said architect and urban planner Stefano Boeri. “That is why, for more than 20 years, we have been working to develop ideas and projects to increase forests in urban areas. Our ‘Green Obsession’ is a design commitment and at the same time an aspiration that we would like to share with anyone who looks with courage and optimism at the future of our cities and the quality of life for all citizens.”
“We are very happy with the recognition we received, which rewards our activity but also our commitment to research and communication,” added Maria Lucrezia de Marco, Head of the Communication Department at Stefano Boeri Architetti, at the event. “In recent years we have worked to consolidate an international network of researchers, organizations, and institutions that share with us the goal of implementing urban forestry. We believe that working on dissemination and outreach is a necessary step to have better cities, starting today and for everyone.”
The CMCC Climate Change Communication Award “Rebecca Ballestra” was organized by the CMCC Foundation – Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change under the patronage of Ca’Foscari University of Venice and the Consulat Honoraire de Monaco à Venise, in partnership with Earth Technology Expo.
“Foresight Dialogues 2023. Planet, Climate and People” was led by Mauro Buonocore, Agnese Glauda and Alessandra Mazzai of CMCC.
For more information:
The CMCC Climate Change Communication Award “Rebecca Ballestra” platform: www.cmccaward.eu
The agenda for the event “Foresight Dialogues 2023: Our planet, climate and society.”