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Climate activists urge Attenborough to pass the mic on Insta

by Sophie Davies | @sophiedaviesed | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 11 November 2020 17:49 GMT

Broadcaster and film maker David Attenborough attends the premiere of Blue Planet II at the British Film Institute in London, Britain, September 27, 2017. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

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Youth activists want those on the frontline of climate change to benefit from a David Attenborough social media campaign

By Sophie Davies

Nov 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Youth climate activists have urged David Attenborough to 'pass the mic' rather than jettison Instagram after just six weeks, saying the British naturalist should not abandon his 6 million followers.

Attenborough's team opened the Instagram account in September to coincide with the cinema release of 'A Life on Our Planet' documentary.

It attracted 6.1 million followers before the team announced plans to close after its 27 posts garnered the sort of following usually reserved for actors or influencers.

Climate activists said in a statement late on Tuesday that the documentary had provoked a "tidal wave" of interest, urging Attenborough to rethink so others benefitted from his fanbase.

"With 6 million engaged followers at your fingertips, it only makes sense to keep the momentum going," said 27-year-old British-based activist Tori Tsui.

The activists - from fifteen countries - said Instagram had alerted a new audience to the perils of a warming planet and that closing the account would be a wasted opportunity in the fight on climate change.

"Activists...have expressed a deep concern over the team's decision, highlighting it as a missed opportunity for climate education, given it has the power to reach millions of engaged people," they said.

The youth activists hail from several global organisations, including the Fridays For Future NGO that emerged from Greta Thunberg's school strike for climate movement.

They urged Attenborough to #PassTheMic to communities on the frontlines of climate change, including Black and indigenous groups, to boost chances for global action.

"The campaign focuses on making sure that youth activists, especially from the Global South are empowered and able to share their stories in their own way," Mitzi Jonelle Tan, from Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

A spokeswoman for the documentary producers said the social media account was only ever intended as a series of special Attenborough messages to run over a limited period.

"Audiences have followed on the basis that they will see filmed messages from him, and it is therefore not possible for us to hand over the account to anyone," she said.

She said the account would instead recommend accounts to follow on environmental issues, offering activists a powerful new tool to spread the word.

"This is where social media comes in…going to where the youth can really see our messages and calls, through dance videos on TikTok or pictures on Instagram or witty lines on Twitter," Tan said.

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(Reporting by Sophie Davies, editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. (Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly)

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