Beyond clicktivism: how to show your support for a cause
For the last decade, adding solidarity filters to social media profiles has become common practice. Back in 2014, Facebook created an option to add the French flag to profiles following the Paris terror attack. And more recently, social media users have been adding Ukrainian flags to their accounts to show solidarity in the wake of the Russian invasion.
With a simple click, we’re able to show we care about a cause or event. But how can we go beyond one-click gestures to take long-term action?
Learn about global issues
The first step to tackling an issue is knowing and understanding what it is. Learning about causes beyond those that impact you is a good first step to showing you care.
The environmental and climate movement affects us all – from our local communities to people on the other side of the world. But how it impacts us varies greatly. To discover how others experience the world and start to understand how we can help, we need to be proactive.
Thankfully, issue-led films and books are becoming more common in popular culture. The 2014 film “Virunga” is a perfect example. Produced by Leonardo Di Caprio, “Virunga” explores the idea of conservation by focusing on the dangers faced by forest wardens protecting gorillas in Rwanda. Available on Netflix, this is just one of many films shining a light on some of the realities threatening people, animals and our planet.
Take part in a social media campaign
Whether we like it or not, social media remains one of the most popular ways to voice opinions and reach millions of people globally. So it’s not surprising that social media campaigning and activism have grown in popularity.
But what makes an effective social media campaign? Influencing opinion, educating people and taking direct action are some of the key components. There have been many effective social media campaigns in recent times, and one that stands out is the #ALSIceBucketChallenge.
This was particularly effective because of its reach: people nominated each other, celebrities got involved and “ALS” became one of Google’s top searched words in 2014, showing an appetite to learn about the cause. The campaign raised over $100 million.
Note: if you’re fundraising for a cause, find out where your money will have the most impact by listening to those who are most impacted.
Partner with others
Co-campaigning is all about partnering with others to work on a common cause. The more groups that take part in a campaign, the greater its reach. Different groups bring distinct expertise and can reach new people. This helps reach a shared goal.
A good example of co-campaigning is the Let Communities Decide campaign, which was set up for communities opposed to fracking. Friends of the Earth worked with 350.org, CPRE, Frack Free United and 38 degrees on the campaign, with each organisation deploying different but coordinated tactics, reaching more people and communities we wouldn't have been able to reach on our own. We learnt from one another, building skills for future campaigns, for example, 350.org shared their digital mobilising expertise with us. Our collaborative effort led to an amazing win – a moratorium on fracking.
By working collaboratively and forming relationships and connections, we build power for future campaigns.
Demand your MP acts on global issues
Even if you live in the UK, you can take direct action on global issues. Our network at Friends of the Earth did exactly that when 27 of our grassroots groups took action against a gas project in Cabo Delgado, northern Mozambique. The UK government pledged $1 billion of taxpayer money towards the project, despite estimated emissions equivalent to the annual aviation emissions of all EU states combined.
Our groups joined demonstrations, held processions and delivered letters to their MPs highlighting the devastating impact the gas project would have on lives, livelihoods and the environment.
All of the activity was shared with Justiça Ambiental (Friends of the Earth Mozambique), which has been raising awareness of the project and its effect on local communities for years. Justiça Ambiental have previously called for UK citizens to “talk to politicians. Take the issue to the media. Keep making a noise”, and our groups did.
Share personal stories
In Latin America, environmental defenders face extreme danger. At least 3 people a week are killed for protecting the environment, and many more are intimidated and harassed. In 2021, National Wildlife Federation honoured the lives lost fighting to protect ancestral land and the environment by sharing some of their stories. When environmental defenders are killed, the majority of deaths aren’t investigated. This is when sharing the stories of others becomes important – we can’t act on injustice if we don’t know how it impacts the people involved.
What we do
Over the years Friends of the Earth and its international partner groups have run many successful campaigns to protect people and planet. A few of our wins include:
- The creation of the 2008 UK Climate Change Act. We persuaded the government to adopt this ground-breaking legislation. Countries across the world have followed by introducing their own climate laws.
- Justice for Nigerian farmers for oil spill harm by Shell. The Dutch court ordered Shell to compensate Nigerian farmers thanks to campaigning from Friends of the Earth Netherlands and Nigerian communities.
- Rights to ban the cultivation of GMOs were built into law, thanks to campaigning across Friends of the Earth Europe networks and EU Member States.
In the UK, across Europe and internationally, Friends of the Earth is fighting for a more just and sustainable world. You can be part of our mission too.