Meet Max Moinian and Stephanie Sheppard, the founders behind your favorite Instagram climate newsletter
(@futureearth / Instagram)
Scrolling through their feeds, they laughed whenever they saw a polar bear with terrible graphics trying to compel others into climate activism. And seemingly, the only alternative was overly-complicated science terminology.
Gen Z is well aware that Twitter is for information and Instagram is for fun. But Max and Steph wanted to change that. They’re visual learners and children of this generation who wanted a way to dispel critically important information that actually stuck. They agreed that a little clarity and some stylish designs could go a long way to combining fun with education. The only natural conclusion was Instagram.
Almost exactly a year ago, Max and Steph started @futureearth with graphic designer Sydney Hass to share information and resources about the environment, motivate our generation into action and make climate activism accessible to everyone.
Max said the process isn’t nearly as professional as we might think from their 100k+ followers and bold designs. It simply begins with just a string of text messages between Steph and Max about a new topic to discuss.
They text all the time: “Did you see this? Did you read that? WOW I can't believe this.” The hardest part (for all of us, apparently) is choosing what to post.
Once they whittle it down, they do the research and draft posts by hand or in Adobe. Then, it’s passed along to Sydney for beautification.
They could never play favorites with their posts, but when AOC reposted their Green New Deal graphic on her story in June, they were excited to say the least.
Max and Steph believe that graphic design makes data more welcoming, and using Instagram as their platform ensures access to important data without academic firewalls.
“So far in my climate education journey I've learned that the information is very complex, but we're not doing the work to make it clearer,” Max said. “We can't expect a scientist to care about how pretty his chart is –– and I'd rather the scientist focus on the work, of course. So that's where we like to come in.”
A couple of their biggest inspirations are The Whole Earth Catalog and artist Olafur Eliasson. They learned from them that graphic design gives data personality, and that’s something people can connect with.
Future Earth’s Insta bio reads: “Everyone’s invited, our sources are always cited.” And for good reason.
Max and Steph always wanted to veer climate activism away from the exclusivity of the oft white, upper-class “ treehugger,” who cares about the Earth.
Max said that while she didn’t relate as a kid to that image, she does relate to “the teenagers in the street fighting for a liveable future.” Clearly, advocacy is more diverse than the “treehugger,” and just being able to see yourself in a movement makes it more accessible, she said.
Right now, the most important climate issue to Max and Steph is what will happen on Nov. 3.
“We can’t afford another four years of Trump, and the planet certainly can’t either,” Max said.
But they do encourage prioritizing the environment at the local election level. (And so do we!) States and municipalities can make lots of changes from the bottom up in their own communities for the planet’s benefit.
Using @futureearth to promote the issues they care about is goal number one. While other businesses or organizations on social media live by the golden rules of analytics, Steph and Max said they would rather just keep iterating their point until it hits.
They don’t think that anyone is going to get a full climate change education on social media, but it can be the first step for so many. Social media is just “a signal.” Detractors love to rail about the superficiality of Instagram. But Max and Steph are happy working in it for now. They don’t need to fit science jargon onto a square; they need to make people stop and think.
The first time someone engages with one of their posts, maybe they just see the art, Max said. But each time after is a deeper dive into climate education –– “Graphic design is the first layer; it keeps the door open.”
Ava Loomar is Rowdy Magazine's Editorial Director. She likes red wine, jamming to alt-rock and staying up till 4 to watch Sailor Moon. You can reach her on her Instagram @whosava. If you're interested in writing for Rowdy, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org