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Ep 49 The best strategies for talking about climate change

Climate Stew Host, Peterson Toscano

Climate Stew Host, Peterson Toscano

Want to be a better Climate Change Communicator? This is the episode for you. In Ep 49 of Climate Stew we review some of the most effective strategies for talking about climate change. We also have great news about a lawsuit brought filed by a group of American young people who demand that adults act on climate. And Marvin Bloom helps us understand the difference between climate denial and outright lying.

Peterson also reminds listeners that very soon Climate Stew podcast will produce its 50th and final episode. He has been invited to create a brand new show on another platform. But the good news is that he and the Climate Stew Crew are beginning to produce new videos!

Climate Stew podcast is available on iTunesStitcherTuneIn RadioSoundCloudSpreaker Radio, or Listen here  on our site. In whatever format you use, please rate and review! It makes a big difference. You can follow us on Twitter. Also check out our Facebook page where you can give your ideas of what you want to hear on the program

Music
Roadside Sketches by ArtSonic

La Rose by Chenard Walcker on the Blessed album

Links

Transcript

Intro

Elizabeth Jeremiah

Elizabeth Jeremiah

Hello you have made it to episode 49 of Climate Stew. This is airing on Monday May 2, 2016. I am your host Peterson Toscano and I’m excited to be with you once again. And I’m excited about today’s show as we look at both strategies and successes when it comes to climate change communication. Here’s what we got cooking for you today on Climate Stew. In the news I will follow up on a story we first covered back in episode 30. A group of teens has sued the US government on behalf of future generations. They are demanding climate action. We have breaking news about that lawsuit. In our Main section, Elizabeth Jeremiah and I will share with you helpful, proven strategies about what you can do to be a better climate communicator. And of course Marvin Bloom is chomping at the bit to get something off his chest. This time about climate denial. Again.

But first we go to the news

News: Update on Teen Lawsuit

Our climate news story is about climate legal action. Back in Episode 30 I told you about eight young people in Washington State who were so concerned about climate change and the inaction of adults, they took matters into their own hands. In June of 2014 they filed a lawsuit against the Department of Ecology in Washington State.

Twenty-one plaintiffs, ages 8 to 19, won in United States Federal District Court in Eugene, Oregon on behalf of future generations of Americans in a landmark constitutional climate change case brought against the Federal Government and the Fossil Fuel Industry. Photo credit: Our Children’s Trust

Twenty-one plaintiffs, ages 8 to 19, won in United States Federal District Court in Eugene, Oregon on behalf of future generations of Americans in a landmark constitutional climate change case brought against the Federal Government and the Fossil Fuel Industry. Photo credit: Our Children’s Trust

I reported that the state of Washington baulked, but a judge ordered officials to meet with the youth to address their complaint. This was a historic ruling. What has happened since? Initially the Washington state Department of Ecology came up with a proposed plan to reduce carbon emissions. Then They quickly backtracked,. In response the kids are back in court demanding action. Hopefully they will prevail.

Also in Episode 30 I briefly mentioned another lawsuit brought forward by another group of youth that was proceeding through a court in Oregon. This one is getting some real traction. In fact, a federal judge ruled in favor of the 21 youth plaintiffs ages 8-19.

According to Forbes, The lawsuit alleges that the Federal Government is violating the Plaintiffs’ constitutional and public trust rights by promoting the use of fossil fuels. The Complaint explains that, for over fifty years, the United States Government and the Fossil Fuel Industry have known that carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels causes global warming and dangerous climate change, and that continuing to burn fossil fuels destabilizes the climate system.

No surprise some fossil fuel companies jumped in to block the lawsuit. But here is the good news, they were unsuccessful. On April 8th Judge Thomas Coffin of the United States Federal District Court in Eugene, Oregon ruled in favor of the youth. While the outcome of the trial is still far from clear, the block is lifted and the lawsuit goes forward. In his ruling Judge Coffin wrote: “global warming may eventually hurt all of us, but it will hurt our children and grandchildren the most, so they have the right to sue.”

Keep an eye on this story. This may well be a game changer.

Main: Peterson & Elizabeth Jeremiah: Here’s Everything we Know about Talking about Climate Change

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Graphic Credit: Grist

I mentioned last episode that the Climate Stew podcast is coming to a happy end. This is the penultimate episode before I launch a brand new podcast. I will share all the details in our next and final episode.

As I have worked on these final episodes, I have grown reflective. I am curious about effective climate communication. How do we get people to listen, to care, to act? In a way every episode of Climate Stew has sought to answer these questions.

Climate Stew crew member Prescott Allen Hazleton recently sent me an excellent article by Amelia Urry, the associate editor of science and technology over at grist.com. Her article Everything we Know about Talking about Climate Change makes me very happy. I want to share with you some of the highlights from her article. I also want to reflect what we have been doing here and how that lines up with her findings. You will find a link to the article in our show notes.

So what does Amelia suggest? Joining me is our good friend Elizabeth Jeremiah. She will read from Amelia’s article and I will comment.

Hello Elizabeth,

EJ: Hello Peterson. I’m glad to see Marvin Bloom is not here right now.

PT: You two need to end this weird feud you have going on. You are like the Hillary and Bernie of Climate Stew. Ok, what does Amelia advise when it comes to climate communication?

EJ. This is what she suggests:
Don’t try to scare people

graphic credit: Grist

graphic credit: Grist

It doesn’t work in prison-deterrence campaigns, and it won’t work for climate change.
Emphasizing disaster can backfire. The more we are educated about risk, the more we tend to think about disasters as 1) inevitable but 2) something that mostly happens to other people.

PT: I think we have done a good job of avoiding scare tactics here at Climate Stew, the podcast that takes a serious look at global warming but doesn’t try to scare the snot out of you. I learned this from years of activism around LGBTQ issues and as I recovered from gay conversion therapy. The more fear in our brains, the harder it is to think clearly. Of course climate change is alarming, but we cannot live in a state of alarm. As communicators we may be tempted to frighten people to action, but over and over studies show that this method only gets people temporarily riled up. They soon move on, often farther away from climate action than before they got the climate fright of their lives.

Similarly I see that leading with shame and guilt does not motivate people to real action. Yes, we need to take responsibility for our country’s polluting ways, but shaming people because of their actions drives them into denial and resistance.

What’s next?

Focus on solutions
CitizensClimateLobbyThere’s a “hope gap” — even some of the people who are most alarmed about climate change don’t know what the solutions are, says Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.
So you need to give people the solutions — and they’re out there, from household composting to wide-scale energy reform. But this is a big problem, and the solutions need to be big, too — encourage ambitious political action, and minimize individual guilt.

PT: Agreed. There are solutions to our pollution. Here at Climate Stew we have relentlessly urged people to put their efforts into collective actions that change energy policy. Yes, it is the moral and right thing to lower individual carbon footprints. But it is only a baby step. If we left it with that, we will not address the vast problem of public polluting. So much pollution happens on our behalf outside of our homes—the roads we drive or walk on, the power grid, how governments and businesses get and use energy. There are lots of solutions for large scale actions from conversation of energy to pricing carbon. People can feel small and powerless. But over and over I hear experts say that What is needed is political will.

These days I tell my audiences that we have work to do. I give them three steps they can takes.
learn about climate change. make it part of your regular news consumption to read about climate change. Oh, and stories mocking climate hiv_aids_silence_equals_death_poster-r8e6d87b4c1ef46518f5565c9244411f9_i0t_8byvr_512deniers do not count. We learn nothing from those. Dig into the issues and the solutions. I suggest you can focus your climate education to a particular passion you have. Discover and understand how climate change affects the thing or things you love the most. This can include pet care, food security, immigration, women’s health, golf, coffee, or LGBTQ youth homelessness. Become an expert about how climate change affects your passion.
Break the collective silence. We do not have political will to enact climate related legislation because most people know so little about the problems. It is like during the HIV/AIDS crisis in the early 1980s. Only the people directly affected knew what was going on. There was silence in the media and public discourse. That’s when early AIDS activists created the slogan, Silence Equals Death. They creatively broke the collective silence. From the AIDS quilt to made for TV movies to the creation of the first ever lapel ribbon to raise awareness, they got people to see and understand what was happening. That is one of our jobs today. Through social media, at school and work, through our relationships, we can share what we are learning about climate change. You are an influential person. There are people who listen to you. As you continually bring this issue to people’s attention, they will listen. Then they too will care.
What next?

climate legacy

Climate Legacy: credit, Grist

Talk about how we’ll be remembered in the future
Instead of urging people to “think about the children” and preserve a livable climate for future generations, new research suggests that it might be more effective to ask people to think about their legacy.

PT: Ah huh, like what will people be saying about me in the future. Seems like a selfish motivation, but humans can be a self-interested specie. I get it.

EJ: And here is a good one that fits in with your news story today.

Get kids in on the game
Though encouraging people to think about children in the abstract might not be the best approach, confronting them with real children is something different altogether. A kid urging (read: relentlessly nagging) her parents to leave her a functional planet when she grows up might have more success than hordes of clipboard-equipped environmental activists. New campaigns have started to encourage motivated teens to talk their family members into voting pro-climate.

So a lot of this has to do with speaking out, communicating. And to me that is the most encouraging and affirming part of Amelia Urry’s article. She confirms what we have been doing from the beginning. We have focused on storytelling.

EJ: That’s correct. She write:

Tell a story rather than reciting facts
Some climate scientists and activists think that if the American people only knew the solid science behind climate change, they’d be motivated to fight this big problem. But most people just aren’t going to be inspired by hearing, “There’s overwhelming consensus among scientists.”
Much better is to tell a good story. Give it a gripping plot, with a beginning, a middle, and an end (and it never hurts to have a villain). And put people at the heart of the story — not icebergs or atmospheres or endangered tree frogs. Help people understand what climate change really means on the ground, today, and what is at stake for them.

IMG_4078PT: I think Marvin does this is some amazing ways when he talks about coffee as an endangered specie. Yes I agree storytelling skills are needed now. I have found too that keeping the stories personal and vulnerable help to draw people in. I have learned so much in my life through my parents, their lives and examples, but also when they died and my sisters and I cared for them. I see so many connections to why I care about climate change. I could not at first comprehend let alone believe my mom was so sick when she was first diagnosed with cancer back in 2004. I felt so much anger towards cancers and the tobacco industry. I felt terrified about the changes that were quickly happening to our family. Even to this day I find it hard to believe that this larger than life, force of nature, my mom, is no longer with us. I can understand why people struggle to believe our earth and our existence on it is threatened. It is too big to take in. The loss is too great.

But it was in caring for my mom and then my dad 6 years later that I found inner resources I had no idea I possessed. Courage, endurance, strength to do what seemed impossible. This gives me hope as I consider the struggles ahead. I remember how my sisters and I and our cousins and people in the community came together and did amazing things in caring for my mom and then my dad. This gives me hope as I look at our threatened future existence and Mother Earth has been handed such a dreadful diagnosis.

EJ: Normally I am uncomfortable with talk of Mother Earth, which sounds like New Age, Pagan, Devil Worship to me. But when you put it that way, about your own momma and ‘em, it brings it home to me. I don’t think I will ever stop missing my momma and daddy.

PT: Thank you Elizabeth Jeremiah. While we have different ways of looking at the world and we do not agree on everything, I guess we share a lot of the same values and experiences. And at the end of the day when it comes to communicating climate change, it is about finding common ground about what matters the most for each of us.

With that is time for Marvin to come with a story of his own.

EJ: Well, then I guess it is time for me to depart. I’ve have a women’s conference and shopping mall event to attend where I will break about the dangers of generational curses.

Your Moment with Marvin:

Hi this is Marvin, Marvin Bloom, and this is your moment with Marvin. Without Elizabeth Jeremiah.

Ok, I have a new video up on YouTube about climate denial. Just go to YouTube and search for Marvin Bloom Climate Denial. You will find it and a lot more of my videos.

One possible model for helping to understand how people are reacting to climate change

One possible model for helping to understand how people are reacting to climate change (click to enlarge)

I feel very compassionate toward climate deniers, skeptics. Its like facing the loss of a parent or painful mourning some of us experienced when we lost Lady Gaga to the straight people. One way of looking at it is that the first stage of grief is denial. We resist change and all that comes with it. So we can play a trick on our minds and genuinely struggle with accepting reality.

Now some people have criticized me for being too soft on denial. They say, “How do you expect me to be compassionate towards stupid people who are gumming up the works and getting in the way of climate action?” Yes, I understand your anger. The frustration. We feel a lot of it in America, the largest climate denying country in the world. And the most influential. Our unwillingness to face facts and do something about it is holding back the rest of the world. That’s infuriating.

But I need to make something clear, an importance difference. I see that there are people, everyday citizens in the USA, who genuinely are struggling emotionally to accept the reality of climate change. Even lots of progressive liberal types have not yet let the full weight of the crisis hit them. It’s too hard to bear.

Personally I think they are stuck in the bargaining and negotiating phase of the Kubler Ross stages of grief. I hear them say, things like, “I’m concerned about climate change, in fact, we decided to pay carbon offsets so we can still go on that vacation in Disney with the kids next December.” Personally I believe Orlando is one of Dante’s more creative and expensive levels of hell.

Ok, I get it, you want to make individual changes in your life as you grapple with the reality of climate change. but if we truly believe that consumers can make a big enough difference to address our national polluting problem, well that is simply another form of climate denial. It’s like slapping a new coat of paint on the deck chairs on a sinking Titanic. We need bigger, bolder responses. We need to change political will and public policy.

exxon-mobil-embroidered-patchYou see most of us are struggling with some form of climate denial. And because of that I see we need to extend compassion and understanding. Denial is a very human response to change and grief.

BUT there is something very different that has been going on that does not in any way deserve a tender hearted response. According to wikipedia: “Since the 1970s, ExxonMobil engaged in research, lobbying, advertising, and grant making, some of which were conducted with the purpose of delaying widespread acceptance and action on global warming.”

In other words for over 40 years, ExxonMobil knew that their was a problem with their product. It polluted and changed the atmosphere. They then went out of their way to develop strategies to deceive the public. What is worse for them—they also tricked stockholders—a serious crime in New York State. They are now facing state and federation investigations into their sneaky practices of deception and misinformation.

The only known photo of Marvin Bloom

The only known photo of Marvin Bloom

Now that makes me angry. That is about making money regardless of the risk to consumers. We don’t tolerate it with faulty toys that choke kids and we sure as hell need to challenge it when it affects the air we breath and the planet where we live. That is something to get angry about. And that is something different to what I have been saying about climate skeptics.

Some people are in denial about climate change because of emotional reasons. These feelings also get wrapped up in their identity and their politics. But usually it is a personal affair. But skeptics has also been helped to stay stuck where they are. In fact, all of us have been tricked, fed outright falsehoods by an organized campaign to insert doubt about global climate change and stop climate action. Companies like Exxonmobil are not Climate Denier. No. They are outright Liars. And that’s a different story all together.

This is Marvin, Marvin Bloom, and this is your moment with Marvin.

Closing:

Whoa Marvin, you are getting fierce. And I see you are still struggling with the tragic loss of Lady Gaga’s career choices. Thank you for listening to this penultimate episode of Climate Stew. Check out our website, climate stew dot com for show notes, a transcript, music credits, and Marvin and Elizabeth Jeremiah’s latest videos. And do tune in for our final episode in a few weeks where we will have some very special guests. If you have a message you want to share on our final program, feel free to email me info @ climate stew. com that’s info @ climate stew. com OR visit climate stew dot com to leave a message or get our phone number so you can leave a voicement. Our music today is by . Special thanks to Polly Attwood, Wendy Stanford, Leslie Manning, Oh, and Joe G who to this day struggles with his grief over tragic loss of his favorite capris pants.

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Peterson Toscano

Author: Peterson Toscano

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

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