This is part four of the Climate Education 101 Series, designed to jump start your understanding of the climate crisis. Browse the full catalog here.

Why don’t we talk about climate change?

The climate crisis suffers from really, really bad PR. Despite the overwhelming consensus from the scientific community, the media still portrays it as a debate. (Learn more about why that is: What is Climate Denialism?) This has caused science to become a partisan issue—so much so that we’re afraid of having a connected, honest conversation with friends and family members.

Additionally, the reality of the climate crisis can be overwhelming. Common reactions fall along the same lines of fear, avoidance, and denial:

I feel overwhelmed. I don’t think I can make a difference. I’m afraid of being judged. I don’t know enough. I want to avoid an argument.

If this is you, recognize that you are not alone.

How can we talk about climate change?

Keep in mind, conversations can be casual. They don’t have to be long or have a specific goal. It’s about educating, not winning.

Two people having a conversation in a diner over two boxes of Krispy Kreme.

Approach conversations with these three steps:

1. Listen first, speak second.

Starting a conversation with, “how do you feel about the climate crisis?” gives the person a chance to answer without trying to meet your expectation or dispute your claim. By understanding where they are coming from, you can meet them where they are.

Actively listen to the person you are having a conversation with—don’t just wait until it’s your turn to talk. After all, if you don’t listen to them, why should they listen to you? Even if you don’t reach an agreement, the point is that you talked about it and heard what each other had to say.

2. Be kind.

Talking about the climate crisis isn’t about winning—it’s about educating. No one wants to be wrong and forcing someone into a corner will only make them resent you instead of appreciating your insight. Focus on talking with the person, not at them. It also helps to focus on the positive. Communicate that we can make a difference. (Want to offer examples? See Most Impactful Things You Can Do to Fight the Climate Crisis.)

3. Make a connection.

Human aren’t numbers and facts don’t sway hearts. But when we marry facts with compelling stories, we can move mountains. Aim to connect the person’s every day life to the effects of climate change. Bringing the issue home will leave a lasting impression.

For example, many people don’t connect to the broad issue of climate change itself, but many do connect to health issues. How will business as usual affect the health of their families, their communities, their livelihoods?

Why does conversation matter?

Conversation is action. It is also the first step to recruiting others to the climate movement. While it may not change a skeptic’s mind, it can plant a seed to be sown by others. The goal is not to win, but to establish a connection—that is success.

We won’t see serious climate action unless we’re actively talking about it. The open, honest dialogue of millions of voices is how we get there.

Many hands raised. Photo by Edwin Andrade on Unsplash

Previously: Who is Affected by the Climate Crisis?

Up Next: What is Climate Denialism?

If you found this helpful, feel free to buy me a coffee to fuel the next blog. Venmo @Mary_Meade

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