How to Talk About the Acute Climate Crisis
Hey internet folks! As a young sustainability activist (I think it's fair to say that this blog is a form of activism), I've had to do a lot of persuading. Not because the climate crisis isn't real, because it is real, but because people aren't as educated or as passionate about the climate crisis as one might think. I've literally talked to my friends about the climate crisis and they said, and unfortunately I quote, "What's that?!" I know, I know. Here's what I've learned as someone who has had many arguments with friends, parents, siblings, and even teachers about the climate crisis.
1- Know Your Stuff
2- Know Your Audience
3- Have objectives
4- Have an implementation strategy
5- Refer to resources
6- Regulate emotions
7- Learn how is more important than what
1- KNOW YOUR STUFF
At this point, not knowing about the climate crisis is quite rare- at least I hope you know about the climate crisis if you're reading this blog! If not, you're equally welcome, but maybe this post isn't a great starting point. First, get to grips with your content. If you're talking about zero waste, maybe do research on plastics: how they affect health, communities, environment, and the oceans. This will help you portray an accurate picture and seem convincing. Also try to source your material or print it out in case you forget.
2- KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
The truth be told, some people just don't give a s*** about the climate. And that is something that you are going to have to accept. But the more people doing something, the better. Don't gatekeep your audience or make them the 'eco enemy'. Try to provide solutions and not criticism. Instead of "You produce too much trash," try "The average American produces x amount of trash per day. I want us to try to swap our cling film for beeswax wraps." Here's the formula: a generic stat, followed by a solution.
3- HAVE OBJECTIVES It's totally okay to vent to people about the climate crisis. However, if you are trying to show people alternatives, you need to have objectives and be targeted. People who do and don't know about the climate crisis get overwhelmed by the climate crisis very quickly. You want to avoid stressing out your audience and cut to the chase or they'll lose interest or get overwhelmed and shutdown. Have objectives. This can be ''I want us to turn off the lights when appropriate to save energy.''
4- HAVE AN IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGY
I have learned the hard way that you can't force someone to change. You can show them your lifestyle and ask them to change, but if people don't want to hear it, they won't. You can make it easier to change than to stay the same. For instance, if I want my family to switch dishwasher soap, I can ask that we order the soap before the other one runs out. That way it will be ready when the dishwasher soap runs out. I have now made the swap accessible as it is already in the house when the dishwasher soap needs replacing. If people want to change, that's great, but they need to know how.
5- REFER TO RESOURCES
The task of explaining the acute climate crisis in a conversational way that tailors to people's short attention span is difficult. So don't add that to your objectives. Refer people to resources. Whether it's a short TED talk, a Shelbizleee Youtube video, my blog, wherever you find useful sustainability content, you should refer your friend or loved one or person.
6- REGULATE EMOTIONS
The climate crisis and activism is an emotionally loaded topic. I myself have cried multiple times in front of others about the climate crisis and my work. I am so deeply passionate about preventing the acute and all future climate crises that it upsets me to see inaction, or negative action. Luckily there are many strategies I use to cope when talking about the acute climate crises. These include breathing exercises and even walking away if I need to. Learn what works for you and don't be afraid to express your passion about sustainability in a controlled way.
7- KNOW THAT HOW IS BETTER THAN WHAT
Ultimately, how we talk about the climate crises is better than what we say. You can deliver a good speech to a roomful of uninterested people and it won't make a difference. Or you could learn your audience, use research that is targeted and relevant, provide suggestions, regulate your emotions and create meaningful change.
Thank you for reading this blog post!