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It’s the Messenger, Stupid! Communicating Climate

In his book, Don’t Even Talk About It; Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change, George Marshall presents chapter after chapter about how NOT to talk about global warming. Right now countless climate change communicators toil like wordsmith alchemists seeking to devise the perfect formula for talking about climate change,but over and over Marshall reminds the reader–it is the messenger not the message that gets results. People listen to speakers with whom they identify.


Almost all of us do it. We read the news sources, watch the political shows, follow the people who represent how we see ourselves in the world. As a result we shut out so many other voices that just annoy us. It’s human nature. What it means though is that no matter how clever climate activist get in their talk, they rarely reach those people who look at them and think, “We are nothing alike.” So we need to draw from our stories, our shared human experiences, and find points of connections. We also need new messengers to come forward to contribute to the conversation.

Here is some good news, as reported in this week’s Climate Stew (and beyond): There is a NEW climate change communicator out there who is bound to connect with loads of people who previously never seriously considered climate change as THEIR issue. Introducing the newest climate caped crusader–Pope Francis!

News: Pope to issue strong statement on climate change.
From the Climate Stew news desks comes this special report. A new superhero has taken flight in the fight against global warming. Imbued with special powers, the ability to speak multiple languages, and sporting a fabulous cape, this hero is making waves in the Pacific Islands and beyond. Is it an albatross? Is it a stealth bomber? Or is it? Really? That guy?

It’s the Pope. Pope Francis. Seems he is sticking his papal nose into lots of issues—Cuba, the gays, and now Climate Change. The Vatican announced that later this year the Pope will issue an encyclical, a big fancy papal statement that will communicate to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics that the Pope wants the church to board the climate action train.

A moral stance could just be a hit (Image: Tony Gentile/Reuters)

A moral stance could just be a hit (Image: Tony Gentile/Reuters)

Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Social Sciences in Vatican City, has been meeting with others for several months to help shape the Pope’s message. When asked about the Pope’s feelings concerning climate change, Sánchez Sorondo said: El es “muy preocupado por el cambio climático…la solución es la ética, porque la falta de ésta es la causa de la crisis económica y la que se esconde tras los graves problemas del mundo” uh, can anyone translate Italian for us? Is Tony Buffusio here?

Tony: Sure Peterson, he’s actually speaking Spanish in a weird vatican accent. He says that, “the Pope is very concerned about climate change … that the solution is ethics, because the lack of ethics is the cause of the economic crisis, the force behind the serious problems of the world.”


Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Social Sciences

Peterson: Ah, so he is looking at climate change as a moral issue, one that affects the poor, appealing to the church’s long history of taking responsibility for helping others.

Tony: Yeah, which is smart on his part, because my grandma, who’s super Catholic, could care less about the climate changing as long as she has her air conditioning, but when it comes to poor people, she gets all mother Theresa on us.

Peterson: Which I have no idea what that t looks like, but thanks.

While it is unclear what sort of impact the Pope’s official papal climate change statement will have on Catholics and other believers, climate change communicators like George Marshall often point out that when talking about global warming most people do not listen to the message but to a messenger with whom they identify. Perhaps this caped crusader with his very own Pope mobile can stir up some climate action.

microphone photo credit: Win the Room

Author: Peterson Toscano

Peterson Toscano is a quirky queer Quaker concerned about Climate Change. His website is

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