The whole topic of climate change is so complex. The nature of the subject is truly challenging. As much as I like to focus on the encouraging aspects, not a day goes by without newspapers printing sad stories about coral reefs dying and showing us pictures of turtles entangled in plastic.
How to be a force of positive change in that climate?
Or like one of you readers asked, ‘How do I begin to talk about climate change with my family and friends? Especially those who think it’s not big deal and/or inevitable.’
Short answer, and I say this with love: You don’t.
My worst climate change conversation ever went something like this.
Me: I just think it’s a good idea to get involved and do something, anything, before it’s too late. Climate Denier: Really? Well, I for one don’t think it matters one bit what we do. So what if the sea levels are rising? And so what if the polar bears get extinct? Throughout the history of the world, species have come and gone. Just think of the dinosaurs!
Me: ….eh…..*Brain senses conflict and powers down. Self-preservation mode activated. I stand up and my legs led me out of the room.
The reason conversations like these are so frustrating, is because they are tainted with competition and judgment. The good people (me!) look down on those ignorant beings who don’t do their part. And likewise, those who don’t give a hoot about climate change look down on the idiotic people (me?) who waste their time thinking they can make a difference.
In my fantasy world, I’m as wise as Margaret Atwood, as funny as Amy Poehler, and as vulnerable and courageous as Brené Brown. When talking with a fellow human being who disagrees with me, I stay totally grounded and say something really cool.
In real life - in sharp contrast - I feel like I’ve been struck over the head and I stumble and falter.
How to work around that?
I’ve come to the conclusion that when it comes to environmental issues, actions speak louder than words. Show, don’t tell.
This viewpoint can be hard to accept, partly because there is this unspoken rule that those of us who feel compelled to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle immediately become responsible for how other people act. Activists are leaders. Right? Before we know it, we spend more time worrying about what the others are doing (or what they are not doing) than dealing with the important issues at hand.
But, having said that, let me try to answer this question for real. How to talk about climate change?
I think the planet is great, I love it, and I’m here to say I’m good at caring for it. I’m proud of the fact that I’ve reduced my plastic consumption in half, and I’m not afraid to talk about it. In fact, even if someone squinted their eyes, put their hands on their hips, and said in a finger-pointing tone, ‘What’s the point of that? You’re wasting your time! The damage is already done,’ I would immediately respond:
That might be true. Or it might not. But even if I can’t stop the ice caps from melting, I can at least stop myself from making it worse. Plus, I like the idea of doing my part. It might not be a lot, but it’s something – and for me it is a lot of fun. And even if I’m wrong about this, even if all my efforts turn out to be a big waste of time, it’s a chance I’m willing to take. I have nothing to lose here.
Yeah, right! That would never happen. My brain would probably freeze and prevent me from stringing two sentences together.
In any case, what I want to leave you with is this.
When talking to other people about climate change, forget about defending yourself, explaining yourself, or trying to convince the other person that you’re right and they’re wrong. Simply share why you think it’s important. That’s it. Keep it simple.
Trying to bring them over to your side will only create more friction and resistance. It’s also annoying, not to mention boring.
Share your thoughts, your curiosity, let them in on how this has lead you down a path of new discoveries. Tell them how this has made you think about things in new ways, and how you love learning about this world we live in, and how fun it is to do participate in something that is bigger than yourself.
Be passionate. Don’t judge. Don’t put people off. Don’t shame. Admit that you don’t know everything, but so what? It’s not about being an expert, it’s about being inspired into action.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Yes, I’ll for sure try this tactic next time.
Best of luck everyone, and I’ll see you all in a few weeks!
PS: If no one asks you about your green endeavours, and if this makes you feel like no one is paying attention to all the good work you’re doing, keep going. Plant your flowers and watch them grow. And don’t be scared to start a conversation about it!
PPS: If you’re surrounded by climate deniers, either at work or at home, and it’s wearing you down, why not look for inspiration on social media? Connecting with like-minded people is always a good idea. Check out the cCHALLENGE Facebook page. We would love have your onboard!
PPPS: If you’re inspired to do something, but doing it alone feels …lonely, how about teaming up with just one other person? You’re allowed to start small. In fact, I encourage it. My best-friend and I have a new ‘no more plastic straws’ alliance. It’s like our own private club. I like it!
Hosted by Inger D. Kenobi, this column is here to answer all your burning questions, big and small, about whatever is on your mind about climate change. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org, and it might be answered in the next column.
Inger D. Kenobi is a life coach and the author of the book, 'How Do I Look? The Year I Stopped Shopping?'