Flying for Climate Change – culture jamming action

How anti-aviation activists in Germany faked the government of Hamburg and fooled the media to debunk the city’s myth of sustainability

“Flying for Climate Change “ was the motto of the campaign of the fictional Environment and Transportation Office of The City of Hamburg (BUV). A group of young anti-aviation activists in Germany came up with the idea to have a fictional government agency spell out the environmentally devastating truth of Hamburg’s aviation policy, usually sugarcoated in government documents.

“See the Maldives – before they sink,” says a poster by the fictional government agency.

The PR-coup was a response to the recent decision to expand the Hamburg Airport, which is legally dubious and against which Friends of the Earth Hamburg are currently filing a lawsuit. This is how it worked:

Step 1: Fake the government

The activists set up a website of the fictional government agency, resembling the city’s actual corporate design. The website informed about the agency’s measures to accelerate climate change, such as purposefully excluding the airport’s GHG-emissions from the official carbon footprint of the city, the public financing of the research cluster Hamburg Aviation, and the expansion of the Hamburg Airport. The website linked for further inquiry to the city’s actual sustainability department.

Step 2: Fool the media

From January 9th, the website also featured a news section covering a current poster campaign by the fictional Environment and Transportation Office, along with an “official” press release and photos as proof. The goal was to educate the populace about the city’s policy of non-action concerning the airport’s GHG emissions. The poster featured an airplane window with a view on the Maldives, saying: “See the Maldives – before they sink. We show the citizens of Hamburg the places that will disappear due to climate change. For further information, inquire at the sustainability department of The City of Hamburg.”

Several local media picked up the campaign, such as the Hamburger Morgenpost and Focus Online, and asked the actual Agency for Environment and Energy (BUE) for official statements.

Step 3: Prepare for the backlash

Shortly after, the website was taken down.

The web host had been asked by the actual agency to take down the website, as, in their view, it falsely claimed to represent the official administration of The City of Hamburg. They threatened to take legal action if the website would not be taken down. Neither the web host nor the actual agency could be convinced to re-activate the website.

The action achieved a significant local press and social media response, as well as a new approach for anti-aviation campaigning that local environmental groups, such as Friends of the Earth Hamburg, can now further build upon.