In episode three of the IBC’s Changemaker series of Podcasts, Actors and Changemakers, Will Attenborough, Danusia Samal and Fehinti Balogun speak to Nadira Tudor to share their views on climate change and how to connect sustainability into production.
Will Attenborough began by explaining the background and genesis of Equity’s Green New Deal, which is a network of Equity Members fighting for climate justice in the industry and beyond.
“The notion of the green new deal has been knocking around in political climate campaigning circles for a while. It takes inspiration from the US New Deal of the 1930s which was thanks to FDR when he was president, introducing sweeping government reforms that were designed to tackle mass unemployment, get people working, and really revitalise the country.
A lot of campaigners started to see that the climate crisis is not an isolated issue, but intersects intimately with lots of other difficulties and crises that we face, such as glaring inequality, racial injustice.
“So rather than seeing it as this problem that we keep delaying action on, because there are so many other pressing issues, we see it more as an issue that we can tackle as a society and therefore, an opportunity for creating employment, creating more equitable structures, and lowering inequality in our society.”
Attenborough continued to zero in on the Equity angle on climate change: “You see some green New Deal groups springing up all over the world, but it felt particularly relevant to us as a trade union because we are focused on workers, terms and conditions, your pay packet, the conditions that you’re experiencing.
“Rather than seeing climate sustainability as an add on, actually it’s an opportunity to tackle broad challenges. Climate disasters, rising energy costs, rising food costs, they always impact working people and people from lower income communities much more. Therefore it makes absolute sense to take a sort of worker’s lens and try to create a transition to a greener economy that’s just as equitable.”
Danusia Samal, Actor picked up the baton: “There’s a political movement called The Commitment which is about voting for politicians who will make quite a climb forward and let you make a pledge as an individual to do that. I want to take that idea - could there be 10 sustainability commitments that those who care about this issue could agree to sign up to? That can be from an actor, a writer to a producer - I want to change the whole set. But it’s just a kind of statement of intention!”
Fehinti Balogun, Actor, Theatre maker and Activist drilled down into how climate anxiety has parallels in the media industry: “Part of the anxiety around climate change, or any kind of political anxiety, it’s not that the thing is bad it’s that you feel powerless to do anything about it. That’s the cause of the anxiety.
“I think what’s really helpful to remind ourselves is that our industry mirrors the world. Like the way our industry is run mirrors exactly how our society is run. This can be seen in the way [for example] people that work in hair and makeup, are there doing two hours before unpaid during two hours after unpaid - that’s part of a systemic thing that’s built in.”
Balogun continued rather poignantly: “I spend a lot of my time mourning my future. It’s the future that we’re constantly told we’re going to have, reinforced by TV news media, [which] would suggest that there’s only a little problem. It’s fine, go on saving for the house and go on building the dream your parents had and their parents had because you can.
At no point is there a really serious conversation about what my future looks like in the next 10 to 20 years - we’ve seen the summers we’re having now and that’s now that’s within the 1.5 degree limit, and we’re likely to breach them by 2027.
Everywhere in my industry as an actor, performer, creative, suggests that that [line of thinking] is another thing getting in the way of the [professional media] work. My work is not to engage with the outside world, and that cognitive dissonance drives me insane. So I either have to live in complete denial or I have breakdowns every 10 minutes.
I’d say the truth of it is that I need to be a part of something, so when I’m talking [to someone] 10-20 years from now, and they ask me ‘what did you do?’ I can say ‘everything I could do, I did’.
“Because otherwise what am I doing? What am I actually doing?”
Attenborough closed the conversation with a robust call to arms, as well as some reference points for the wider industry to coalesce around and get involved, including Equity’s Green New Deal and the recently launched “Green Rider” scheme.
The latter was announced at the Edinburgh TV Festival on the 22nd of August 2023, and saw Actors including Bella Ramsey, Stephen Fry and Ben Whishaw sign up to a pledge to reduce the environmental impact of making films and TV shows.
“Come with your ideas whether that’s to us or within the communities you already exist in. This doesn’t work without you. You listening here. It requires everyone’s active participation. Get involved with that conversation.”
See all Changemakers Podcast Episodes, including upcoming Episode 4:
Episode 4 Amongst the sound of sirens, creating joy on TikTok Friday 1 September