The Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE) was held in late June, hosted by the University of Leicester and organised by the International Environmental Communication Association (IECA).
The IECA is a collective of practitioners and academics, representing fifty countries, who meet every two years to share the latest thoughts and research on communicating environmental issues in a swiftly changing media landscape. This year’s conference featured a fantastic array of experts on communication and environment, including Professor Graham Murdock of Loughborough University; Roger Harrabin, who has been reporting on the environment for the BBC for twenty five years; Amanda Niode, the Indonesian President’s Special Envoy on Climate Change; Adam Corner of Climate Outreach; Sönke Lorenzen of Greenpeace International, and Natalie Bennett leader of the Green Party of England and Wales.
With about 240 delegates assembled in person and online, the depth of discussion and richness of content was impressive. Subjects ranged from the power of the hashtag, to the need for sustainable changes in the tools of the communications trade (yep, that means the phones and computers to which we are glued), and the challenge of keeping the media and the public tuned in to often complex stories.
The subject of collaborations between art and nature in telling the story of nature conservation was also featured on the programme in a paper and presentation by Stephenie Cahalan (TLC Media and Communications). ‘This is art speaking: reaching new audiences for nature conservation’ describes the TLC’s collaborations with artists in the Skullbone Experiment (2013-14) and the upcoming Poets and Painters event (2015-16), and the effectiveness of employing a different language to tell the story of conservation.
The presentation was well-received in this cohort of wordsmiths, academics and activists, and the paper was awarded the IECA’s inaugural Most Outstanding Paper award, showcasing globally the TLC’s creative and effective approach to the critically important work of protecting threatened species and habitats.