Most people that care about climate change have come across a person who doesn’t seem to care about how our planet is heating due to industrial and post-industrial pollution. Whether it be a parent, uncle, aunt, cousin, best-friend, or stranger, most of us just can’t make sense of how someone can lack interest in such a dire and urgent issue.
Ayden Ruiz, Co-founder of Pronoia CBD, has said that on multiple occasions he’s spoke with friends and family that did not think climate change was real nor did they care much about the overall consensus from scientists, further elaborating that the evidence is alive and well. He expressed to us that he felt like the words he said to his family and peers had little to no value, not because they didn’t respect him, but because they lacked understanding of what climate change actually is.
In order for Ayden, and thousands of others that wish to raise awareness towards climate change, and eventually turn that awareness into action, they must change their approach. Like a student who is struggling in math, or a new invention that has yet to gain steam, a new approach can be groundbreaking.
According to John Marshall, an Environmental advocate and communications strategist, changing the way we talk about climate change can help people better understand the issue, and begin to act on it.
In his virtual Ted Talk, How to talk about climate change so people actually care, he focuses on a people-first approach that demands three simple things.
1. Plain, obvious, and universal language
“Confusion and hopelessness are the enemies of understanding”, In order to create a more vivid picture in people’s minds, we must begin to use language that everyone can comprehend. Marshall explains how more than four in 10 Americans think the Ozone hole causes global warming and very many people still remember and understand ozone depletion. This happens because its very easy to picture in our minds. Why? It’s a literal hole, it’s a layer. We can compare it to a blanket or jacket with a hole, gradually allowing wind or water to pass right through to the surface, or our skin.
Now that we know people are able to comprehend and remember concepts and language that make sense in our everyday lives, here is a very vivid description of climate change according to Marshall, “Humans have been on Earth for about 300,000 years, but we’ve only started polluting like this in about the last 60. Our pollution stays in the air for thousands of years, creating a thickening blanket that traps heat in the atmosphere. That heat causes stronger hurricanes, bigger fires, more frequent floods and the extinction of thousands of species. But there’s good news. To stop the pollution blanket, we just have to stop polluting.”. He says that when testing this “pollution blanket” framing, it has shown to be one of the most effective at getting people to understand climate change.
Alternate methods to providing more clean visual images for people are to use regular speak words and concepts that resonate with people.
Here are a few words you can use in replacement of others:
Climate —————> Extreme Weather
Clean Energy —————> Cheap Energy, as it is rapidly becoming more affordable.
2) Make climate feel like something that matters, individually and personally.
Awakenings are almost always a personal matter. They tend to be about individual circumstance and perspective. Marshall and his team ran a study on two different messages to people in the state of Florida. One asked them “to demand that we get to zero-emissions to stop climate change” another simply put, “Stop my flooding”. The latter was four times more efficient in getting the message across.
One example that resonated deeply with parents, was a team of outstanding women playing their part to study the issue of climate change, developing complex models to understanding data, and climbing into planes to measure nitrogen in wildlife smoke. “They could tell you everything you need to know about the science, but when we asked them why they study it, they told us about their daughters and their sons; about wanting to keep the world safe and healthy and vibrant for their children”. When Marshall and his team shared this story with parents, they started to care far more deeply than looking a graphs and charts of statistical data.
Getting people to care about climate change is not about showing them the science, it’s about how to make them feel a certain way about it.
3) Show climate change is an issue for ‘people like me’
As humans, we are very social animals and this is very true to how we form our beliefs. We often relate more to those that we share common interests with. Hispanics gravitate towards Hispanics, Christians towards Christians, Athletes towards Athletes, you get the point. Here’s an example, many of us are familiar with Florida man, a resident of North Florida who got into a littler trouble after taking an alligator into a convenience store. He’s not the most obvious climate change messenger, but when he appeared in an internet ad talking about how climate change is affecting his way of life, it significantly increased climate concern among young conservative men in Florida.
The core of this idea is rather than explain the issue at people, we bring them into the issue. So then they may say “I get it. It matters to me. It matters to people like me”. Once we establish this, we will begin to see people take action against climate change.
Climate change is real and will happen whether we take action or not. Some may see this as a reason to quit, others see it as their duty to fix the unintentional mistakes of previous generations and transition our society into a more understanding and efficient civilization. Whichever you may be, I hope you can take these tips and use them to strengthen your message towards climate change, because the more awareness we bring the higher our chances are to overcome this global issue.
If you’d like to watch the Ted Talk with John Marshall click here