Exhausted and disoriented, the new mother found herself staring cluelessly, as the nurse handed her a tiny bundle for his first feed. She felt bewildered and utterly alone as Covid restrictions had not permitted her partner to be by her side.
As a pharmaceutical executive, she had felt important. She had worked feverishly during her pregnancy – negotiating with companies and countries to reach them the much needed life saving drugs in terrible short supply during the chaotic early phase of COVID-19. But now there was no miracle drug to ease her into motherhood. “The hormones are supposed to help you get through this”, she thought. But all the science and facts memorized over the years were not helping! Later, this provided the basis for her epiphany.
Kripa had moved to London in 2004, following a year at The World Bank in Washington DC where she had worked as an Economist. Keen on using her training to contribute to better policies, she joined the Civil Service. Over the years, she learnt to juggle the demands of life as a mother of two, and her dual roles – as a dancer and economist.
As the Lead Economist for the UK Medicines Regulator, she had been part of the team responsible for rolling out UK’s first Covid-19 vaccination programme. She witnessed first hand how the government machinery took on this public health crisis, streamlining processes to respond at record speed. It was inspiring… almost addictive!
This was why she had chosen to work in public policy all those years ago after completing her masters in Economics – to make an impact on people’s lives. She was now motivated to do more, not just as an Economist but also as an artist.
Entering motherhood during the Covid lock down made Neelambaree question her purpose in life and the kind of world she had brought her child into. She read about how the pandemic was an outcome of human induced climate change, as did Kripa and this became the main subject of discussion during the many afternoons of rehearsal that followed.
London seemed the global centre of activity on climate change with scientists, investors, technologists, companies, NGOs and government organisations galore, all talking green. But to them, the larger public seemed to be strangely and utterly, unmoved. With their technical backgrounds, Neelambaree and Kripa understood the indisputable scientific facts being put out and were terrified about possible future scenarios that would adversely impact their children’s lives. But why was there little tangible action?
Out of curiosity and with a desire for up-skilling, Neelambaree armed herself with the scientific literature on climate change by enrolling at Terra.do. The course also provided a powerful network of various actors and organisations dealing with emission reduction. However, she realised that most people were focused on tech and finance.
For Neelambaree, the neonatal ward epiphany came in now. Behavioural change can only be affected via emotional appeal. Politicians have always understood this. But the scientific community with its supreme belief in facts and logic tends to overlook the importance of emotional connections. For people to make different individual and career choices, they had to internalise the science and the terrifying data.
The conclusion was clear – storytelling was missing, visions of a desirable future were missing. Neelambaree and Kripa had many conversations and finally found their raison d’etre and ClimArts was born.
The climate emergency is caused by us and is about real people. We need to look beyond the data, reflect and respond with sensitivity.
Honesty is imperative to create persuasive narratives that move the audience underpinned by positive accurate facts.
Transdisciplinary collaboration will bring together different perspectives and expertise to communicate effectively for a shared goal.