Meet two artists who use social media to spread climate messages

Their eye-catching and upbeat visuals are an antidote to climate anxiety.

Nicole Kelner's version of the Friday Social column art translated into her unique visual style.

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Canary Media’s Friday Social column explores the intersection of energy, climate and social media. Canary thanks Silverline Communications for its support of the column.

In each of our Charging Up columns on women’s clean-energy career moves, Canary highlights an inspirational woman artist. I’m a tad competitive, so today I’m going to profile two inspirational (and climate-focused) women artists.

But in all seriousness, I’m excited to share with you some of the wonderful work of these two artists who have recently graced my social media feeds.

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Nicole Kelner: Climate watercolors

If you’ve been on Twitter in the last few weeks, Nicole Kelner’s ethereal diagrams illuminating energy and climate topics have probably hit your feed. You may have even seen folks on #energytwitter using one of her paintings as a new header image.

Jason Jacobs of the podcast My Climate Journey recently weighed in on Kelner’s work:

I reached out to Kelner to learn more about her and her artwork. 

Mike Munsell: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Nicole Kelner: Growing up, art and math were my favorite subjects. Since then, I’ve always found joy in having a creative outlet that combines the two. Right now, I am head of operations at a startup called Dashboard Earth, which helps connect people to the actions necessary to thrive in the face of climate change.

Being able to use my background in education, my passion for art and my desire to make an impact in the climate space in this creative way is so fulfilling. 

Munsell: One of your recent tweets mentioned that you’re doing 100 days of art. Can you tell me more about that?

Kelner: As a fun New Year’s resolution, I decided to do a 100 days of watercolors” challenge. On day 10, I painted one about kelp and carbon sequestration.

I thought about how there are disturbing climate facts the general public doesn’t want to hear about — and especially doesn’t want to see ugly graphs about. So my idea was to transform these stats into something beautiful that people would just want to look at, while sneaking in a wake-up call about climate. 

I started sharing [them], and they really seemed to resonate with people. 

Munsell: Do you have a favorite watercolor you’ve done to date?

Kelner: I really like the one on blue carbon. I am happiest when I’m near water, and being able to learn more about how the ocean relates to the carbon cycle is fascinating.

Munsell: Energy wonks love your paintings. I’m curious about the reception from friends and family who aren’t reading about energy and decarbonization every day. Is your work starting educational conversations with them?

Kelner: They love it! My dad made a Twitter account so he can see them. My aunt is sharing it with all her friends. I think they appreciate that I’m able to break down these complex topics into something that is approachable and bite-sized.

Munsell: How else can our readers get involved? Do you sell prints of your work?

I do! I just launched a print shop at nicolekelner.com. I’m also in the process of sourcing T-shirts and coffee mugs, which will be available at the same site.

Sarah Lazarovic: The climate art polymath

Sarah Lazarovic’s artistry comes through in many mediums: illustrations, a published book and a visually rich newsletter, Minimum Viable Planet, which is where I originally came across her work.

I dropped Lazarovic a line to find out more. 

Mike Munsell: I came across your artwork through your newsletter and later learned you were an editorial cartoonist for seemingly all of Canada’s major newspapers. How and when did you shift toward working in the climate sector?

Sarah Lazarovic: Slowly…and then all at once. I was always a part-time journalist because I felt increasingly worried about climate but unable to find a place for it in my journalism (this was long before solutions journalism” became a thing, and everything was still very both-sidesy). For many years, I took consulting and design jobs helping climate organizations build campaigns and fundraising pieces.

In 2015, I started working at a creative agency where we were able to work with some amazing climate organizations like the David Suzuki Foundation and Oceana. So I knew I would eventually want to work full-time on climate, and in 2020 I made the leap. I went to work for a small but truly mighty climate org called Clean Prosperity because I really wanted to get carbon pricing across the line in Canada. Now, as of last week, I work at Rewiring America, an organization I’ve long admired, which has set a goal of electrifying America’s 121 million homes over the next decade. I’m quite amped about this challenge! (Please give us a follow as we light things up in the coming months.)

Munsell: You recently wrote a great newsletter explaining that every job is now a climate job. While many in Canary’s audience have climate jobs, often their friends and family don’t. What’s the key takeaway of the piece that we should be thinking about when we talk to our non-climate-wonk friends?

Lazarovic: The key takeaway is that you don’t need to be a climate savant to have huge power in your workplace. Most people care about climate but think the people around them don’t. Tell the ESG/CSR [environmental, social and governance/​corporate social responsibility] people at your workplace that you want to help, start a green team and vocalize support for climate efforts across your workplace channels. 

Lots of research tells us that people don’t feel confident talking about climate because they’re worried they don’t know enough and will be called out, which is bonkers. People share uninformed opinions all the time. That’s what the internet is for. Why, when it comes to the most important thing in the world, are we silent? Remind your non-climate besties that all they have to do is voice their concern and desire to help. No footnotes necessary.

Munsell: I’ve written a few different Friday Social columns about creative solutions in the face of climate doom, so this is one of my favorite pieces you’ve done. Can you tell me more about it?

Lazarovic: It’s a myth that we are doomed. But at the same time, it’s absolutely OK to be totally overwhelmed, sad and befuddled by the enormity of the task at hand. We are living in existentially unprecedented times, and to suppress our sadness at the scale of the crisis is to do a disservice to ourselves. At the same time, we’re alive to fight, as vigorously and creatively as we can, for the people we love and for the people already experiencing climate effects all over the world. Both things can be true at the same time. And I just love Venn diagrams.

Munsell: Where can we follow you to stay up to date on your latest artwork?

Lazarovic: Please follow me on Instagram or subscribe to my undepressing climate newsletter, Minimum Viable Planet.

You can always share everything I put out for noncommercial purposes, and I very much appreciate it when you do! You don’t have to ask. If you get a tattoo of the Buyerarchy of Needs, I don’t need to see it. 

Sarah Lazarovic's Buyerarchy of Needs

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Silverline Communications, the supporter of this column, is a climatetech and ESG communications firm with deep experience in all facets of the clean economy. Learn more about how Silverline connects clients with stakeholders on social channels and beyond.

Mike Munsell is director of growth at Canary Media.