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3 tips to convey HOPE when explaining a DARK topic (like climate change)

Updated: Jan 22, 2021

Last week InvestigateWest, a Seattle-based a nonprofit news organization, released an animated introduction video for their year-long project, Decarbonizing Cascadia. The video was produced by SpringShoe Animation. And one challenge was to show the environmental impact of current Carbon emissions while keeping the film hopeful. Here's what we did:

1. Cut to the chase!

We could have spent the entire program just talking about the effects of climate change. But being brief when explaining the problems can keep you from losing viewers.

Storyboard panel for "Decarbonizing Cascadia"
Storyboard panel for "Decarbonizing Cascadia"

In the case of Decarbonizing Cascadia, climate change is nothing new. We’ve been hearing about it for years. So, we decided to show a bunch of doom and gloom newspaper and website headlines with the simple text “In 2021, climate change seemed to be everywhere and unstoppable.” This also gets the message across quickly and visually. The scene does all this in about 3 seconds.

2. Use characters and story.

The idea was to start with showing someone being overwhelmed with climate change,

Concept art for "Decarbonizing Cascadia"
Concept art for "Decarbonizing Cascadia"

rather than overwhelming the viewer with it. This gets the message across, but in a way that keeps your interest because you can relate and empathize with a character. Our “hero” is imagining herself in a future where carbon emissions have been dramatically reduced to halt climate change.

3. State the problems, focus on the solutions.

After quickly stating the problem and it’s devastating impact, we immediately change the mood to focus on all the things that can be done. The story starts moving to the future and we see the little girl as a young environmentalist making protest signs, then witnessing solar panels being installed on her parent’s house. As a young adult, she is working with wind farms and solar companies. She trades in her gas powered truck for a zero emissions car. She celebrates each positive change before coming back to the present time as a child.

Don't forget the Soundtrack

Another really important factor is the soundtrack. Our soundtrack, produced by Cleaver Studios, helps ease the transition from doom and gloom to hope and helps the story move from present to future and back. The hypnotic, rhythmic marimba and vibraphones reinforces the focus and seamlessly ties the different parts of the piece together.

The animation is a very simple story, but it packs a lot of information and hope into 90 seconds! Have other ideas or feedback? Please leave a comment or email me directly (

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