Art has the power to move, inspire and teach us, usually without a single word. But too often, social and environmental movements use bleak and gloomy images to sound the alarm on important issues, and these images are neither impactful nor empowering. In fact, they can have the opposite effect.
Research suggests humans can adapt all easily to bad news — so the more doom-and-gloom talk there is about the climate, the more people will simply accept we’re on an unchangeable path towards destruction, rather than being at a crossroads where we could move towards a better future instead.
We just need to show people that a more hopeful vision exists.
According to Seeing Hope, a guide to visual messaging by Fine Acts and Hope-based comms, effective, climate-related visual imagery should promote values like togetherness, hope and care and not flood us with fear. Here, we’ve gathered a collection of compelling artworks by talented artists around the world — all published under a creative commons license on TheGreats.co, an open image vault by Fine Acts that’s free for noncommercial use and adaptation by anyone passionate about our planet’s future.
We asked the artists to tell us their vision for our climate future, what gives them hope and how they’re driving change in their communities. Here’s what they said.
The Sound of Strength in Numbers
by Pietro Soldi
“Sadly, the effects of the climate crisis are on the news every day, and people can no longer ignore it. Every living being on this planet will be affected by global warming, but those with less will feel it more intensely. I believe in a more equal, just and fair future, and it won’t happen without climate justice.
As bad as it is, it gives me hope to see the awareness the topic is getting in society, especially among youth. What I do is not enough, but my main contribution is through art. I’m constantly trying to reflect my beliefs in everything I do, and it is super interesting to see some things that I’ve created helping to spark conversation about topics that are dear to me.”
Follow Pietro at www.pietrosoldi.com
Spring of Hope
by Eva Mlinar
“We are constantly faced with challenges, fears and uncertainties. It is up to us whether we succumb to fear and let it pull the worst out of us, or we try to build resilience and transform pain into possibility.
My biggest hope is that I see a new generation of young people who do not passively observe but have started to raise their voices, build political power for climate action, and fight for environmental justice. I’m trying to reduce my consumption and recycle and compost whenever possible. But above all, I work with different NGOs and design posters to warn and encourage people to take action.”
Togetherness Is All
by Eija Vehviläinen
“When it comes to individuals taking action on climate change, I believe in taking small steps instead of big leaps. This world can seem a pretty gloomy place sometimes, so it might be better not to take the whole weight of it on your shoulders. As a professional illustrator, I like to work with clients that share the same values I have in respecting and protecting the environment.
My illustrations are all about bright, cheerful colors, but there’s usually a thoughtful and sometimes even melancholic undertone to them. I believe this mixture of light and darkness gives depth to my work but also helps to send the message in a more positive and optimistic way.”
by Luisa Rivera
“It gives me hope that we still have a future ahead, and that means we can still change and improve our relationship with the environment. We are part of nature, not apart, and every day is an opportunity to bridge that gap.
Illustration is key to communicating messages and raising awareness, so I put my work at the service of environmental causes. I find projects and organizations that I can collaborate with and share projects with my peers, thus creating a network of cooperation. Illustration transcends languages so I use the power of storytelling and visual metaphors to communicate complex messages. My advice for other artists is to understand that we are global communicators, and we are part of a specific moment in history so we can use our creative work to improve the world we inhabit.”
We Share the World
by Daniel Liévano
“At this point, it seems to me that the term ‘climate change’ is already present in virtually everyone’s mind. It may be present, but it is not deeply imbued. And the difference between one and the other, it seems to me, has to do with the emotional.
I have seen a gradual change in behaviors within my close social circle. We really behave differently on [climate change] than we did 10 years ago. I don’t buy new clothes. I have no car (I love to walk and skate). I sporadically eat meat. And, of course, I vote for green congressmen and presidential candidates, despite the fact that many of them don’t get elected here in Colombia.”
We Are All On the Same Team
by David Espinosa Alvarez
“I think younger people understand the importance of this crisis way better than grown folks — it’s more present, more urgent.
Some actions [I’m taking] are more immediate — composting my food waste, trying to use as few single-use plastics as possible — and others are more for the long run — not consuming from brands that are actively destroying the planet. It’s something I think all of us should be working on in our day to day.”
Follow David at www.el-dee.net
by Fonzy Nils
“I have hope in the power we have to change our future. I think that collaboration between people and the sum of small actions can have a big impact on the climate crisis.
I often create images to support something I believe in or to involve the community in a campaign or social project. I think that in our century, the people who work in creative fields must be an important part of the change. This illustration represents the will to act together to build something better. This is my hope.”
Follow Fonzy at www.fonzynils.com
The World Is Yours
by Kevin Adams
“There appears to be newfound and increased momentum for serious political action when it comes to addressing climate change. I think some of the abnormal and destructive weather phenomena have jolted some much-needed focus on these issues. I am seeing far more conversations and interest in climate change. That gives me hope.
I have been encouraging my family and friends to use reusable bags more when they go shopping and to install energy-efficient appliances. As I am getting ready to return to work on-site, I plan to elevate conversations and action about my workplace’s carbon footprint. I would encourage other artists to speak their truth through their artwork and to talk about things they believe.”
Every one of us on the planet understands a universal language — the language of pictures, says illustrator Christoph Niemann. Watch his full Talk to learn more: