The Art of Noise and the Power of Communication


Matt Harvey

This is a picture of Matt Harvey, a poet in Devon, outside his shed where he sometimes gets inspiration. He does really brilliant shows and is passionate about getting his message across, and mostly he is a lot of fun and really entertaining. Since his residency, with RegenSW, he is the closest thing the South West of England has to an official climate poet.

Climate Poets

We definitely need more climate poet because, to be frank, for most people, in simple talk, the science is not exactly straightforward, doesn't paint a particularly rosy picture and leaves you thinking, "Well, what on earth I am supposed to do?"

It is also grist to the mill for those campaigning for things as they are: the marketing and communication mind of the scientist, I am afraid to say, is no match for the nimbler 'hands-on' street fighting competitor. The communication of this infinitely interesting and actually rather inspiring topic of conversation has been, rather sadly, a bit of a balls up.

Rules of the Game

The rules of the game don't apply equally well. There is no match referee to call offside and manage fair play. It's not a fair fight; it's plain to see that the 'cause for common good' is handicapped by its earnest sense of doing the right thing. This is especially true when all the bad climate news is labored, up until a point where people are doom laden and in the mood to switch off and indulge in some comfort shopping.

So there needs to be a change in the style of communication. In terms of bringing a message home, the more potentially disruptive it is, the more people will tend to use their defenses to ignore it, discredit or put it in the just too difficult box.

For a message to work it has to have some key ingredients: it needs to be relevant, it needs to be actionable, it needs to be positive and it needs to provide some sense of comfort. It also really helps when your friends, colleagues, peers and leaders are also thinking and feeling along the same lines.

Change the Game

The art of noise is about how to confuse the picture so nothing changes; it is in part an appeal to our lazier habits. It tends to favor 'old school' and monopolistic institutions and is not good for free markets, competition, innovation, personal freedom or the common good.

One way to change the game is to appeal to the instincts of competition, growth and innovation rather than play the moral 'my science is better than yours' blame game. There are millions of people who work creatively with climate risk and sustainability across all areas of work life and make good money from purposeful risk.

Mapping this shows real change and it is a much more helpful starting point. It meets the criteria of communicating a relevant, actionable, positive and comforting message, where many people are in the same boat.

Another way is to have some fun; here is one of Matt's poems which has been turned into song for a new crowd funded Transition-inspired musical (

Pie in the Sky

"Put a saddle on a sunbeam
Hang a bridle on a breeze
Ride the tide into the future
Land of Possibilities

They tell me: If you want that kilowatt
You've gotta frack 'n' drill a lot
And then of course you spill a lot
And when I ask them WHY?
They say: Don't let 'em tell you otherwise
Those Greenies tell a pack of lies
When will you people realise
It's all just pie in the sky!

Well slap my thigh,
Pie in the sky!
Hi de hi and Ho de ho
It's the high-wide sky-pie rodeo

And I say: If the sky can provide
Gee, that's kinda nice of it
If there's pie in the sky
Then cut me a slice of it

Serve me up a plateful
I'll be glad and I'll be grateful
Earth, water, wind 'n' fire are my dream team
Let's tap the to-ing and the fro-ing
Bag the beaming and the blowing
Milk the movement of the ever-flowing stream

So frack me no fracture
And drill me no well
And nuke me no reactor
'Cos I'm goin' for to dwell

In the Land of Possibility
The Land of Ingenuity
Exploiting every property
Of earth, sea, wind and sun
It puts the fill in my philosophy
A sigh in my psychology
Adds meat to meteorology
An' I guess it's kind of fun (Yee-ha!)

In the land where the sky can provide
Yee ha!
In the land where the sky's made of pie
Yee ha!

Because the reckoning is beckoning
The planetary auditors
Are reeling every second in
There's flooding and there's shortages

Put a saddle on a sunbeam
Hang a bridle on a breeze
Ride the tide into the future
Land of Possibilities"