When you think of the biggest voices of the United Nation's Paris Climate Conference, if you think of anyone at all, it's probably of world leaders — Merkel, Obama, Xi Jinping — or the thousands of protestors and advocates all over Paris. Now you can add Marion Cotillard, Reese Witherspoon, and Liam Neeson to the list. This is thanks to a series of videos put forward by Conservation International for the climate conference by the request of "the most powerful woman in climate change," Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
"We got a call about six months ago from [Figueres], and she asked us whether we would create a video that would bring nature to the table," says M. Sanjayan, Executive Vice President at Conservation International. "She runs this conference," so they clearly complied — and drew on some major star power to do so.
Conservation International first responded by releasing a video called "Ice," about a week before COP21, in which Liam Neeson narrates as the personification of the world's frozen — and melting — ice reserves (see below). That was the warm-up for the video spot they secured at one of the conference's chief events in which world leaders such as the U.N. General Secretary Ban Ki-moon would be in attendance. For this, they released the video "Home" with Reese Witherspoon and, for the French translation (this being Paris), Marion Cotillard.
Conservation International debuted both videos to a packed auditorium, and "people went nuts for it," says Sanjayan. "It went really, really well." Both Witherspoon and Cotillard, like all other stars that have appeared in the video series (including such names as Julia Roberts, Edward Norton, and Robert Redford) offered their talents pro bono.
Although glossy campaigns and hashtags, even those backed by star power, can often seem fleeting and ineffectual in the face of such giant obstacles, Sanjayan does believe that video and media campaigns have come to play an important role in the fight against climate change. "Politicians never lead, it's people who lead, and then politicians follow," he says. "Even though they can sometimes seem like a sideshow, it helps to socialize an idea, and make it commonplace."