“CLIMATE CHANGE IS A REALLY SERIOUS SUBJECT BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE SERIOUS ABOUT IT — YOU CAN STILL ACT POSITIVELY AND HAVE A GOOD TIME DOING IT.”
This is Josie Tucker and Richard Ashton, founders of what we think is an amazing environmental organization called Adapt. They use design, humor and contemporary culture to communicate climate crisis issues in a solutions-based way. We recently spent time with Josie and Richard at their offices in London, and here is some of that conversation.
Josie: Adapt is an environmental organization that runs campaigns and projects and hosts art installations and events — we basically use the skills that we have to try and add something to help combat climate change in some way.
Richard: The name came from Adaptive Capacity, which in climate terms means: the capacity of a system to adapt if the environment where the system exists is changing.
Josie: Climate issues have been on my mind for a long time. But it wasn’t until around the time Trump was elected, and Brexit was happening, and there was an IPPC report that had just came out, and it all suddenly really felt real. I was like okay, now we need to act. I think it took that kick up the arse really.
Richard: I have always been interested in sustainability and the planet. I grew up in South Africa around a lot of wildlife and stuff, and that gave me an understanding of the planet and how to look after it. But it was around the similar time as Josie mentioned that it really got going for me. And then Josie really pushed for us to do Adapt, and since then we have become obsessed.
Richard: We both were freelancing as graphic designers, and realized that we wanted to — and had to — do something about the climate crisis. We started by having meetings in our living room at home with people who were on a similar page, and everyone just started chatting. We formed a small group and started working together on different projects, led by us. After a few collaborative workshops we thought maybe we could try to do a campaign about renewable energy to get people to switch. It is a small and simple action, but something that has a big effect. So we started with our first campaign called ‘Don’t be a fossil fool’ where we created a fun website that was interactive and picked our favorite energy companies for people to switch to. And it kind of snowballed from there. It's still us organizing, but the people we work with and collaborate with on every project are crucial!
The response for the Fossil Fool campaign has been really positive. It was like people were feeling really thankful that someone said it only takes two minutes and that you can just do it.
Josie: With everything we do, we always want to have an outcome, even if it is something really simple. We want people to feel like they can actually act on it instead of being overwhelmed by information.
The main difference between us and other organizations is we are a bit more carefree and we definitely use more humor than most other people. Climate change is a really serious subject but it doesn’t mean that you need to be serious about it - you can still act positively and have a good time doing it. We speak to people on a peer-level. We aren’t funded by a big corporation or working on behalf of a big company, and we do not have anything at stake — we are just talking to people because we want to share what we think. We are just reading things and passing on the information, and making it look a bit nicer and adding a pun to it or something.
“we could do a campaign about renewable energy to get people to switch. It is a small and simple action, but something that has a big effect.”
Josie: From the time when we started, where nothing was happening and no one was talking about climate change, to now — with student protests and Extinction Rebellion and suddenly seeing a massive change in people’s mindsets — there has been such a big difference. Now everyone is talking about climate issues. It is great.
Richard: We’re about to launch a new campaign called ‘We’ve got mail’. Because we had such a good response from writing pre-written emails for people to send to their MPs, we thought we’d do something big with it. So now we’re doing this campaign where people can pick their topic based on their interest in relation to climate change, and they will be able to find pre-written emails to help educate themselves and also to send to their MP through the website. So that will be our next big campaign, which will be cool.
Josie: And we are doing this exhibition and the ‘We’ve got mail’ campaign will be a big bart of it as well.
Richard: It is called ‘Sadness is a No-Go Zone.’
Josie: It is going to be a fun and interactive exhibition where we have asked quite a few artists and designers to translate one of our phrases or puns into a poster or piece of art or video. It is going to be educational with a lot of games and activities around three topics: Energy, Travel and Rewilding. You will see all of the artists responses and at the end there will be ways to take action right there. Yeah, loads of stuff. It’s going to be big — at Copeland Gallery in Peckham.
Richard: It opens on 2nd of August. We have all of these great responses, but it will also be a lot of work.
Josie: We try to do Adapt full-time. We did have regular jobs for three days a week, but that wasn’t giving us enough time for it. So we quit those at the beginning of this year and have been freelancing project-based ever since.
Richard: People have been coming to us for our style and our language. We just did an animation for C40 Cities, which is an organization based in Copenhagen that gets mayors together from all over the world to promote the fact that cities can be the solution to the climate crisis.
Josie: Working with organizations like C40, that’s perfect because they’re doing the research and are actually creating policy. We have learnt that the communication side of things is our main skill, and the way that people respond to it and understand it. So if we can translate a lot of policy and research and science that goes around climate change into something that is actually digestible for people, and if that can support us to do our own campaigns then that would be amazing.
Richard: If I could change one thing about the world I would change how we value growth. With climate change, that is one of the toughest things. As the western world grew very quickly, we caused a lot of issues and we got rid of all of our forest and had all of this construction and now with the rest of the world, like in China and India and Brazil, they are doing exactly what we did. You can’t stop growth. Growth in terms of relations and money is one of the biggest issues. But if you could change how we value growth, or if we could have changed that a long time ago, we would probably be in a much better place.
Josie: I don’t have a better answer than that. I agree.