Ahead of the December COP25 conference in Chile, the momentum to invoke change is full speed ahead. This past year, we’ve seen a great deal of resistance and protest amidst the climate crisis, especially during the youth climate strikes that spread across the globe, with young people taking to the streets to fight for their future.
Student youth climate strike protestor, 2019, Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Student protestors, 2019 source: Unsplash: Bob Blob
These often hand-made posters are a perfect way to express dissent. Their accessibility, ease of dissemination, and visual stimulus prove to capture the public’s attention in full view – while providing a platform for anyone to communicate their thoughts, dissatisfaction, and creativity. We see this consistently across history, through a huge range of movements; from civil rights to women’s rights, to gun violence.
A CENTURY OF DISSENT
At the start of the 20th century, the Suffragettes used strong graphic posters to invoke their demand for basic equal rights. Phrases including ‘Votes for Women’, ‘Women Strike for Peace and Equality’, and ‘Women’s Liberation’ still permeate today across our history and culture. Similarly, The Guerilla Girls, the art-punk collective, famously bought the severe inequality of women in the art world to life in their iconic posters, such as “Do women have to be naked to get into the Met. Museum?”. Modern protests such as this year’s Women’s March continue to employ striking, graphic images and slogans to challenge the deep-rooted sexism, misogyny, and violence women face every day.
Early Suffragettes, Museum of London
NO MORE NUKES
Nuclear power is one of the most lethal threats to our planet and humanity. As early as 1946, people began to protest its position; from small scale weapon oppositions, to organisations such as the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), to the mass global protests following events such as the Three Mile Island Accident, the Fukushima disaster, and the Chernobyl disaster. Today, movements including the UK’s Trident protests (against The Trident Nuclear programme) underpin the continued expression of nuclear-opposition across the globe. Momentum has carried across decades, with early terms like ‘No More Nukes’ and ‘Ban the Bomb’ as prominent today as back then. In a similar vein, the original logo designed for the CND has carried to such an extent that today, it’s recognised as the international symbol for peace.
Protestors at a CND march in London, 1958, The Independent: Getty
Nuclear protestors in Tokyo 2013, on the 25th anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, Rie Ishii: Getty
MPs protest the expansion of the Trident nuclear programme in London, 2015, Dan Kirkwood: Getty
UNITING THE CLIMATE PROTEST
Early examples of large-scale climate protest date back to the 70s, such as the first Earth Day; a demonstration in support of environmental protection. It originated in America, following a 1969 oil spill in California, which devastated local wildlife as more than three million gallons of oil spewed. Its impact sparked the voice of environmental activists, with some protestors wearing gas masks as a symbol to target the issue of air pollution. Slogans such as “Save your earth. You can’t get off”, “we can’t breathe”, and “Give Earth a chance” were widespread in uniting activists, students, and citizens alike. Today, Earth Day is believed to involve over one billion across the globe, with climate activist groups using the day to mobilise action, change human behaviour, and provoke policy changes.
Pin worn at the first Earth Day, 1970, Science Focus
Students protest air pollution at Earth Day, Life Gate
Protestor wearing gas mask, carries flower to symbolise peaceful protest, Curbed
25 YEARS LATER
In 1995, Earth Day celebrated its 25th anniversary – the same year UNFCCC held its first conference in Berlin; COP1. Now, we are fast approaching COP25, and with ever-worsening reports of forest fires, hurricanes, glacial retreat, and plummeting ecosystems; the push for change is more pressing than ever. Great design, impact and imagery are critical for dissemination, which is why artists, activists and campaigners are employing their creativity to push this message in the way we know best; through unforgettable posters, signs, and banners.
DESIGNING OUR FUTURE
Designing activism was one key theme at this year’s WDCD conference in Mexico City, with workshops such as the Daily Gorilla, that aimed to mobilise social debate by creating graphic, semiotic designs. These simple, yet striking images exemplify the phrase ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’.
Examples from The Daily Gorilla
To signify messages such as: our actions as consumers are killing the planet, the use of well-known figures like Mickey Mouse creates a strong impact and visual connection with the viewer. Emojis too, have become particularly important in modern vernacular; which is why in 2015, Pentagram created a series of climate protest posters, using only emojis, to amplify the much-adored digital language for the greater good. Titled ‘Earthmojis’, the playful connection between symbols develop narratives that are quick and easy to read, with lasting effect.
Protester using ‘Earthmoji’ placard, created by Pentagram
‘Earthmoji’ placards at the People’s Climate March, May 2015, Pentagram
Protest doesn’t just mobilise across marches or demonstrations; it can be found anywhere – and as pentagram revealed with the Earthmojis, social media has altered protest. During the COP21 talks in Paris, people began to share what Brandalism, a UK based collective, had imposed across bus-stops and billboards overnight; hacking public advertising spaces with climate protest posters, giving a new perspective to residents on their everyday commutes. Sharing these images across social media, gave momentum in a completely new approach – shifting our normalised vision of consumer advertising while presenting crucial planetary issues.
Bus stop hack, 2015 – COP21 Paris talks, Brandalism
Bus stop hack, 2015 – COP21 Paris talks, Brandalism
Recently Glug, an organisation that seeks to champion the global creative community, teamed up with UKSCN and Friday’s for Future, in an attempt to create the world’s largest database of climate protest posters. They hope to inspire designers, artists, and activists alike to contribute to their open-source pool of posters. They’re asking the community to create an A3 poster of any medium, with any relevant message, so that anyone can access, use, and distribute them. It’s a simple initiative that holds potential for a breathtaking effect. By combining our efforts, the world has an open, climate-protest encyclopedia. Check out the submissions received so far! Do you have a poser, idea, or design? Full details on how to upload your submission can be found here
Submissions to Glug’s climate protest poster database
Perhaps you have a favourite poster, design or image you’ve seen, that calls the climate crisis to light. Below are a few examples of our favourites, but we want to see more! Let us know what you think, and share some great designs here!
Guardian Weekly cover, February 2019, The Guardian
Banksy spray-paints London canal, following 2009 climate conference in Copenhagen, The Guardian