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Good Energy guide helps screenwriters incorporate climate crisis into storylines

In a 2021 Pew Research Center poll across 17 advanced economies, 72% of respondents expressed concern that climate change would harm them personally. But that widespread, collective anxiety isn't reflected in the movies and shows we watch.

To break the 'climate silence' with powerful narratives, a group of activists has joined up with TV and filmmakers to form Good Energy — a new guide for screenwriters, designed to help them incorporate the climate crisis into the stories they tell.

Good Energy's playbook — freely available online — provides a rich source of actionable information, including examples of characters and plotlines, how to avoid tropes and how to portray climate-friendly behavior. Plus Climate Science 101 and a library of experts to consult with.

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To quantify exactly how big the void is, Good Energy commissioned the Norman Lear Center's Media Impact Project to research how often climate change content appeared. Less than 0.56% of scripted films and TV shows released between 2016 and 2020 mentioned 'climate change.' For context, that's less than the number of times 'pineapple' was uttered. Additional analysis of 36 related keywords — like deforestation, fracking, sea level and solar energy — found those in 2.8% of all 37,453 scripts.

Behavior portrayed on-screen can shift cultural norms and lead to real change. Since the climate crisis intersects with every aspect of life, there's no reason it can't be woven into most scripted stories — it's part of writing about how we live in the world right now.

As Good Energy lays out: "No amount of reusable straws or bleeding veggie burgers is going to get us out of this mess. We need systemic changes — meaning new laws, incentives, regulations, and institutions — if we are to phase out fossil fuels quickly, promote alternatives, and remove barriers to action. Yet it's also important for us to envision the world we want to create. Whether it's showing bike lanes or characters composting, every story detail can help to shape imaginations and promote new cultural norms."

If your brand doesn't operate in the realm of scripted stories — what kind of climate change playbook could you offer your industry?