The agency teamed up with Vietnamese not-for-profit organisation GreenID to create The High School to literally rise above the pollution problems
Drawing from the concept of “how do you escape polluted air when you can’t escape the city”, the team at Happiness Saigon used their vision of how school children can be saved from the damage to their brains caused by fine dust particles to create The High School project.
The agency teamed up with Green ID, an innovation and development centre that promotes sustainable development in Vietnam, to literally elevate children up above problems related to air pollution by being located 461 metres above the ground on top of the tallest building in Southeast Asia, and the 15th tallest building in the world, Landmark 81.
With the Covid-19 pandemic already shining a light on how poor air pollution can affect lifestyle, Happiness Saigon’s Jazz Tonna explains why this campaign is so important to the Vietnamese and why this year was the perfect time to release the campaign.
LBB> What first inspired this project?
Jazz> It started with a brief from one of our clients, about the importance of clean air. Many of us at the agency live in high-rise buildings, and there would be days where you wake up and can't see the beautiful Saigon skyline. It’s an issue that we feel very connected to.
In western countries, living in the city is often a conscious choice. But in Vietnam, people are more subjected and dependent on the big city, leaving them no choice. In many ways, clean air has become a commodity. This leaves us with an interesting but disturbing problem; how do you escape polluted air when you can’t escape the city?
LBB> There's a lot of research and data that went into this, how did it all come together?
Jazz> One of the challenges of these kinds of campaigns is how to make studies and newly found information impactful and understandable. The first step is to call the problem by its name. Air pollution is a collective name for all substances in the air that shouldn’t be there. But the real invisible danger is particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5). Because of its size, it can reach the brain cells and inflict damage even there.
Research is a very important part of this project, and we have done it extensively, but in the end the idea is very simple. It’s true that the higher we go, the lower the PM2.5 levels are. But building schools 400+ metres above the ground should never be a measure we should want to take. It’s about showing the need for change by displaying such a dystopian solution.
LBB> What do you hope comes out of creating and showcasing your findings with The High School?
Jazz> Our first priority is to give parents the tools to protect their children against PM2.5. The schools of the children enrolled to The High School will be contacted by our partner GreenID for the installation of an air quality meter. Parents can check the air quality whenever they want to take timely actions in protecting their children. In the long term, we fight for legislative change for cleaner air.
LBB> What did you hope to teach the school children travelling to Landmark 81?
Jazz> A class consisting of 18 primary school students went up for a school day. In Vietnam, awareness around the dangers of fine dust, and PM2.5 specifically, is very low. For instance, that PM2.5 isn’t only dangerous for your lungs, but that it also destroys brain cells isn’t public knowledge.
Teaching children how to protect themselves is one thing, but in order to make this really stick, they first need to feel the importance by showing the dangers. That’s what the classes have been about. What is air and what impact does polluted air have on you and your body.
LBB> What happens now that the awareness of how bad fine dust and pollution is is out there?
Jazz> Our long-term goal is a Vietnam where children don’t have to wear facemasks and don’t depend on air purifiers to breathe somewhat clean air. To achieve this, our immediate goal is to influence the emission legislation in Vietnam into a more progressive one. We’ve set up a pledge for this on our website. People can participate by symbolically enrolling their child to The High School. Like a signature but with much more significance.
LBB> Is there a reason why this campaign has come to the forefront during 2020?
Jazz> 2020 is a strange year and it might be a strange time to launch an air quality campaign. The reason to launch it now is because studies have shown a strong connection between a higher Covid-19 death percentage among people who have been exposed to polluted air for a longer period. So please, wear a mask. For Covid-19 and for PM2.5.