As many conversations as there are about the science behind the climate crisis, and potential solutions, and the need for a response in line with the magnitude of the problem, there are an equal number of conversations about conversations about climate, or, how we should talk about the climate crisis.
“If only climate scientists were better communicators.” “If only Al Gore had included a more solution-oriented, positive message in ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’” “If only we could find a Goldilocks not-too-doomy, not-too-unrealistically-upbeat perfect message that inspired people to action without freaking them out.”
There’s lots of advice out there, much of it conflicting: explain the science; emphasize the solutions; highlight where the hope resides; scare the pants off of people; paint a picture of a positive future; shift the focus away from sacrifice to what we will gain; talk about how much inaction will cost; make it personal; don’t make it too personal….
Whew. Here at 350 Bay Area, we are VERY interested in figuring out the right way to capture peoples’ attention and get them to take action. Here’s what we’ve learned.
The right way to talk about climate is to *talk about climate*, and encourage others to do the same. We are pretty sure that data dumps and doom fests simply overwhelm most people, but helping people understand both the simple scientific underpinnings and the truth about the dire circumstances we find ourselves in is, for most people, on the path to taking action. We know for sure that people feel better when they know that there are solutions out there, and things they can do that will make a real difference; and we know for sure that people feel better knowing that they’re working for solutions alongside other smart, dedicated, friendly and engaged people.
Every person finds their way through the climate story in a different way. “Inconvenient” is not even half of it; the climate crisis is heart-wrenching, enraging, scary as heck, and threatens a whole lot of preconceived notions (like, our children will inherit a cleaner, safer, more just world). These conversations count: the more people out there talking about it, in whatever way is meaningful to them, the more chances there are to build a common understanding of the seriousness of the issue, and how imperative it is for us to take immediate action at the speed and scale required to turn our mother ship around before it crashes into the iceberg of our own making.
“Start with Your Own Story“
Our suggestion? Start with your own story. What concerns you most about the warming world? How has the climate crisis impacted you already? What scares you the most? What is most exciting about the new world we must create? What do you do to take care of yourself in the face of the crisis? What do you enjoy most about the work you do on this issue? We all have good stories, interesting viewpoints, complicated responses to all of the issues that swirl around climate and justice.
We would love to hear your story. If you are called, share it with us via email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know if you’d be willing to let us share it with the rest of our climate community (we won’t share without your explicit permission.) And if you’re ready for a bigger leap, 350 Bay Area has a fun, inspiring and enabling speakers training program, email Jan@350BayArea.org for more information and to sign up for our next training day.