Big ideas for nature

“You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here.” Alan Watts

How did we become so disconnected from nature? How have we unravelled the inextricable bonds that weave us so elegantly into the interdependent web of life? How have we succumbed to the cognitive and optical delusion that we are somehow not an integral part of nature, that we are apart from it?

Many have argued, as I did in my recent ‘Bonn Speech on Global Transformation – A love story?’, that it is precisely this illusion of separation that allows us to divide ourselves from one another and the planet that sustains us, to treat other people and the natural world not as family but as resources to be utilised and exploited.

“Nature matters. And we need nature more than it needs us. By helping nature we are helping ourselves, because we are nature”

In our urbanising century where over half the global population now lives in cities we increasingly experience what John Thackara calls ‘The Desert of the Real’, a false sense of bounty and plenty that belies the parlous state of the natural systems that really support us. Worse, the less we experience and enjoy nature, particularly in our formative years, the less likely we are to care about and protect it. We risk creating cycles of despair with each subsequent generation becoming ever more divorced from the world that, as Alan Watts says, birthed them.

Nature matters. And we need nature more than it needs us. By helping nature we are helping ourselves, because we are nature. The late great American comedian George Carlin put it sweetly;‘It’s not about saving the planet, the planet will be fine. It’s us who are f*****! The planet will shake us off like a bad case of fleas’.

So how do we reconnect to that which is most fundamental, wake ourselves up to what really matters? Escape the egoism of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms and rediscover and rejoin the fertile celebration of the natural world?

This is a big challenge. And big challenges need big ideas and this was the theme of Futerra’s latest ‘Big Idea Breakfast’ – ‘Big Ideas for Nature’. We brought together three of our most valued recent clients, with whom we’ve worked on creative campaigns to tackle this most urgent of tasks – recapturing our love and connection to the wild and wonderful.


My Wild Life

First up Adam Cormack, Senior Communications Manager for The Wildlife Trusts introduced our campaign for them ‘My Wild Life’. In this we focused on using real people and an environmental portraiture approach, with subjects meeting the viewer’s gaze directly to generate a strong emotional connection. This helps establish powerful, local, relevant and meaningful associations between individuals, groups and their own wild spaces and why they enjoy, value and appreciate them.

Adam joked that the simplicity of the campaign initially raised questions. But this is also its power, the reduction of the creative to a very specific essence that is clear and compelling. Even living legend David Attenborough participated! The campaign is already proving highly successful and its current focus #30DaysWild is generating fantastic social media engagement.



Next Fiona Ball, Head of Responsible Business at BskyB, took us through their Rainforest Rescuecampaign that, in partnership with WWF and the Government of the Brazilian State of Acre, aims to protect 1B trees. Initiated on an awareness raising tactic to re-engage Sky audiences on the ongoing destruction of the Amazon rainforest, the campaign had begun by focusing on shock and negative messaging. Futerra were brought in to refresh the campaign and refocus it on what Sky’s audience could then actually do.

Our ‘I Love the Amazon’ creative helped reposition the campaign for positive possibility and along with amazing commissioned TV content, high profile celebrity campaign ambassadors like Lily Cole, a schools programme and experiential partnerships with the Eden Project and Forestry Commission, took it’s effectiveness to the next level.

The results speak for themselves: awareness of rainforest destruction raised in 21M people, £9M raised for WWF (50% public donations, 50% Sky matched funding), 500,000 visitors to Eden’s Rainforest biome, and 73,000 school children through the education project. Not to be sniffed at.



Finally Marcella Peuckert, International Business Development Director for the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), explained the co-creative journey with Futerra that led to their new brand and positioning: ‘Forests for all forever’. This was all about transforming a technical certification label into an emotional brand that’s well known and understood.

The new proposition is designed to create positive associations and encourage customers to actively choose FSC products, reconnecting them to the difference made on the ground made by buying FSC to forests worldwide and the people, fauna and flora who live in them when they do so. We told this story most powerfully through a lovely short film we made to support the campaign. “I’ve never been moved to tears by a deck-chair before” said one audience member after we’d screened it during the session.

So what did we learn? After three such amazing presentations and a lively Q&A some clearly distilled insights emerged:

CONNECTION: Getting people re-immersed and reconnected to nature is critical. Whether it’s the immediate locale of The Wildlife Trusts or the distant global of FSC and Rainforest Rescue, we have to bring nature and people closer together again, and as we at Futerra wrote previously inBranding Biodiversity rekindle those emotional feelings of love, awe and wonder.

STORY: The most powerful way of establishing reconnection to nature is through story, whether it’s the forest products in your life protecting the life of the forest (FSC), how nature enriches everyone’s lives in different and wonderful ways (The Wildlife Trusts) or how collectively we can save 1B trees and protect the Amazon we love (Sky). We need empowering narratives that inspire people and link them to successful outcomes.

ACTION: Stories that reconnect are of course nothing without this! Once touched people need specific tangible things they can do; choose FSC, visit a Wildlife Trust reserve, donate to Rainforest Rescue. Actions complete the virtuous circle of symbolic-self completion and predispose our audiences to further subsequent engagement and commitment.

Essentially we need to creatively reinvigorate the pleasures, the innate biophilia that lies within us all, that natural experiences can bring us. That’s a big idea worth focusing on. Years ago at Futerra we used to use the threat of a fairly traded, ethically sourced ‘spanking paddle’ from Coco de Mer (now sadly discontinued as a product line) to instil discipline in our workshops. So it was with enormous joy that we discovered that there are perhaps more ‘intimate’ FSC accredited wood products now available. There is hope. There is always hope.

Futerra wishes to extend our heartfelt thanks to our esteemed panellists for giving so generously of their time and ideas.

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