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Speeding Up Carbon Drawdown by Helping the Inactive Become Active

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Language Learning, Storytelling & Effective Climate Action

languages carbon drawdown effective climate action

See Through News’s transparent Trojan horse deployed on Languages Day at a British secondary school

The answer’s reducing carbon – what was the question again?

Being carbon-based life-forms, the fact that all roads lead to carbon shouldn’t come as a great surprise.

Still, it’s a fun challenge to our storytelling methodology to see how short and straight a road we can take from any starting point before winding up at our constant destination – effective climate action.

Unusually for a British person, See Through News Founder and Gift Horse Distributor Robert Stern happens to be a polyglot.

Being quite passionate on the subject of the pleasure and importance of language learning, and the efficacy of the British educational system in sucking the last drop of fun from what should be a naturally enjoyable process, he was asked, on the occasion of European Languages Day, to deliver a morning assembly at a British private school.

He agreed on a couple of conditions:

  • He also got to speak to a couple of year groups afterwards
  • Students in the smaller groups could bring their mobile phones to play The Think Game Live Version


As a zero-budget, not-for-profit, run entirely by volunteers, See Through News can only thrive by engineering win-win situations.

This Languages Day talk is a good example of mutual benefit. Win win win, in fact.

The school was delighted with a fun, engaging, memorable ‘inspiring’ Languages Day assembly. Here’s the Head of Languages’s verdict:

You were a hit! So many students and staff commented on how positive, frank, real you were, and you have enthused a lot of people! So a heartfelt merci.

At the same time, See Through News gained much from the morning.

  1. We got to trial a Live version of The Learn Game to a live audience of 1,000
  2. The Think Game dataset was expanded by 150-odd new entries, providing a very specific comparator cohort of privately-educated British teenagers

And most importantly, the students went home that day having not only heard from someone who presented language learning as a joy, rather than a chore, but also more aware of effective climate action than all the adults they were likely to meet in their lives.

The mother of two of the students in the audience kindly wrote to let us know her daughters were still talking about the morning assembly over dinner that evening. Once the video was uploaded…

"We sat down to watch this as a family. My 15- year-old is very interested in environmental issues and has been looking up 'refrigerant management'. My 12-year-old loved the Greek references. My husband and I really enjoyed your clever, witty presentation which covered a lot in a short space of time and we enjoyed trying to pick the languages you recited. Thank you again Robert!"

Lessons learned

The Virtues of Live

Social media, and our content delivery network utilising the ‘free’ infrastructure provided by our Silicon Valley Overlords, forms the basis of the See Through News strategy. Despite all the noise, distraction and competition, there’s nothing like the virtual world for rapid, scalable influence.

Still, live audiences, especially ‘tough crowds’ like 1,000 teenagers first thing in the morning, provide the kind of visceral, immediate, real-world feedback that no granularity of online stats can match.

By the same token, live events affect people more profoundly than virtual experiences, so whatever climate activism impact this engagement may have had, was multiplied by the fact that people were in the same physical space.

The Power of Storytelling

Old school storytelling tricks, like the Rule of Three, the use of humour, misdirection, callbacks, rhythm and repetition, are as old as human communication.

They still work fine online, on the screen or on the page, but there’s nothing like a living, breathing audience to road-test a good shaggy dog story, gag or mic-drop line.

The Adaptability of Transparent Trojan Horses

If this kind of shoehorning of See Through News’s Goal works on a school languages day, it suggests it might work just as well in many other contexts.

The See Through News storytelling methodology can at first sight appear convoluted, irrelevant or tortuous, but if it succeeds in attracting Attention, then Interest, Desire and Action can follow.

This process, known to advertisers as AIDA, has worked for thousands of years for heroes, demagogues, cult leaders, politicians, snake oil sellers, and priests. Seems to work just fine for carbon drawdown too…

Would you like a See Through News Languages Speaker at your school?

Robert is not the only See Through News volunteers with a penchant for languages and experience in public speaking. If your school, university, old peoples home, company or any kind of institution would like a STN speaker to deliver a speech and lessons like this one, please contact: