While we all agree that climate change is taking place, it often feels like we still just don’t get it. In order to act in a climate emergences we therefore need to understand its drastic impacts emotionally and then educate and empower others to take the necessary actions1.
According to research conducted by Yale University, how we communicate is shaped by our experiences, our mental and cultural models, and by underlying values and worldviews2. For those reasons it can be helpful to connect with people individually based on what you both consider important, whether this be your future, saving money, being healthy, being happy, etc. In order to achieve this, we might want to think closer about how we communicate ‘climate change’. To help you, we gathered some research and personal experiences:
Considering different circumstances
Most people don’t relate to numbers and figures. When we are caught up in our daily lives, concentrating on the next thing on the to-do list, what we were just told about the emission concentration in the ozone layer will very easily slip out of our minds. Therefore it might make sense for us to change the circumstances of reporting on climate change.
While it is important to educate people on the facts, in order to emotionally relate to the situation it can be helpful to talk about personal stories. We tend to care about things more we can understand and feel. Sharing stories and images, makes the climate issues easier to understand and relate to. You might want to listen to stories of underrepresented voices, and if you are engaged in climate action, you might want to reflect on why you got involved and why you care.
Acting on Climate Crises, we need to bring up the topic in professional, public, and personal situations, and you might be surprised about how this resonates with people. Talk about and reflect on climate change with other people. Speak about it in places where the topic hasn’t gotten attention yet, write about it, and get angry about what is happening.
One of my favourite storytellers is a man from Cork called Martin Leahy, who last year who wrote a song in desperation about the state of the housing crisis. The song is called ‚Everyone should have a Home‘ and he performs it outside Leinster House every Thursday from 2-3pm. As a person who goes to protests regularly, this is refreshing and inspiring.
Many people in my personal environment still don’t seem to know what can be done against climate change. For me this is upsetting, considering that we have so many solutions ready to be implemented. Reporting solutions is important in getting people to engage with the topic. After getting educated and speaking to others, let us engage in even more climate action.
For this reason I would like to encourage to talk about the Climate Crisis in an engaging way and make sure that everybody knows how to take action. Taking action is the best solution to climate anxiety and everybody is welcome, everybody is needed, no matter the age, personal interests, or social background.
Opportunities for engagement lie in our local community, in our political parties, in our schools, or at our workplaces. This can be a great way of finding community. Once people start to engage, they tend to realise how much can be done. Then we might want to start asking what we want to use our time for, what we find the most effective, and what we find the most relevant. Let’s not forget to engage in politics, in media, and in activism, and let’s criticise the government for planet-destroying policies.
At a climate protest, I once met a sister who asked me to help organise a movie screening of ‘The Letter’, a religious climate movie. Some 90 people came to the screening and got engaged afterwards. Then as a follow up, she started an environmental group in the suburb where we live.
Climate change means that the likelihood for natural disasters is rising, that political instability is getting stronger, and that injustices are being multiplied. People are losing their livelihoods, and the impacts will kill more people than the Covid pandemic ever did. It is important to communicate this and keep track of the scale of the crisis.
Taking effective action is extremely urgent, and many companies, public body and media are making the climate emergency seem less severe of a crisis than it really is. Negative news aren’t as easy to receive as good news, but being honest is essential in order to recognize and talk about problems. To face our fears and in order to to act on climate we therefore need to be honest (if not blunt).
And we need to keep the urgency in mind. This means communicating effectively when speaking about how severe climate impacts are. It means mentioning that taking action is urgent, very urgent. And it means talking about our fears, to not nitpick about each other’s imperfections, and to focus our attention towards systemic changes.
Last but not least I believe that being kind is of enormous importance in climate communication. Despite imperfections and disagreements we can listen to each other and find what we have in common in what matters to us5. To solve this mess, we can form a kind and friendly community that makes people want to come along. Many of the people that I have met during my climate activism are kind, inspiring, and caring. They aim for a more just society, in which we care more about each other and about our planet. This might be our greatest strength and I believe that it can keep us motivated in this enormous challenge of acting on climate change.
- (1) See https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/communicating-climate-change.
- (2) See https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/about/what-is-climate-change-communication/.
- (3) Song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34kW96MG7Bc
- (4) Artworks: https://artistsforclimate.org/climatecollection
- (5) Video: https://theclimatecommsproject.org/how-not-to-talk-about-climate-change/