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Instagram’s New Green Activists

Formerly visible through its events and remarkable actions, environmental activism has now largely invested in a sort of digital marketing and has adopted more diverse tones, between humor, information and revelations, to raise public awareness concerning environmental issues. Although green activists are still present at in-person gatherings and still use regular calls to action, digital platforms, particularly Instagram, now allow them access to a new field of possibilities and a larger audience, enabling them to mobilize the public and authorities around issues related to the environmental cause and obtain real changes in real life. An overview of activists who are digitally green.

Launched in 2018, the “On est prêt” campaign mobilized 60 French-speaking Youtubers for the environmental cause. Every day for a month, these influencers launched all sorts of ecological challenges to their subscribers, such as deleting their e-mails to reduce their digital footprint, not using plastic and buying in bulk, or cooking with leftovers to avoid waste. Elliot Lepers, founder of the NGO “Le Mouvement” – an organization specializing in campaigns to mobilize French decision-makers on ecological and social justice issues and gender equality – and instigator of this digital campaign, wished to “get involved beyond a one-off testimonial that would have taken us two minutes [because] the challenge is to have a deep, strong and long-term commitment.”

More recently, in 2019, two well-known Youtubers, Horia and EnjoyPhoenix, committed to the fight against waste, abuse of packaging, and the environmental impact of transport, by asking brands to stop sending them packages and samples. Other activists, such as the journalist Hugo Clément, who has just published his book, Journal de guerre écologique, use social networks in a more vindictive way, as weapons of combat to fight for the environmental or animal cause. By collaborating with associations such as L214 or Direct Action Everywhere France, he publishes shocking reports on the often-deplorable treatment of animals in slaughterhouses that provoke public opinion and some parliamentarians.

The impact of visual content

The emphasis on visual content on these digital platforms, particularly Instagram, makes it possible to have a strong and immediate impact, often generating reactions and exchanges with users. The use of hashtags will notably allow followers to gather around the same subject or facilitate the virality of a campaign. For example, the #climatechange hashtag gathered over 4.6 million publications in November 2020. Digital mobilization around a cause is much higher than a physical mobilization and is also more accessible. Digital mobilization avoids having to go through institutional media, offering freedom of tone and speech, even if it means distancing oneself from the facts to promote impact and buzz. In France, the number of active Instagram users is estimated at 21 million people, representing 31% of the population, which gives us an idea of the extent of the impact that a digital campaign can generate. This impact is all the more important since, according to the Reuters Institute’s Digital News Report 2020, the use of Instagram as a source of information by its users has doubled since 2018 on a global scale.

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