Climate Stew Crew Member, Keisha McKenzie and I, along with our friends J Mase III and Rev. Nancy Wilson, will band together to lead a workshop next month at the Creating Change Conference. Our topic: A Queer Response to Climate Change, which is absolutely perfect for one of the largest LGBTQ activists conferences in the world. While many LGBTQ people are engaged in human rights work, when it comes to climate change, most act like they live on another planet. But then how so often people communicate global warming as something so distant and disconnected to daily life.
(Note: I have two questions for you to consider below.)
In preparation for our workshop, Keisha sent us a guide to communicating climate change. Here are the main points with two I highlighted.
1. Understand how identity shapes engagement + appeal to the audience’s desire to be among the ‘good’.
2. Channel the power of groups and networks (pre-existing or new)
3. Emphasize solutions and benefits
4. Link discussion to things that affect people in their closest sphere – home life especially.
5. Link climate change to other issues the audience cares about
6. Use images and stories to make the subject real.
7. Use familiar language for new climate science.
8. Acknowledge uncertainty but don’t be shy about what is known.
9. Be careful with skepticism and focus on solutions.
10. Set a few, clear, doable targets for behavioral change.
Linking climate change to other issues the audience cares about. Now at Creating Change this includes looking at the intersections of race, class, gender, privilege, ethnicity, and immigration issues with climate change. Many participants of Creating Change are engaged or at least aware of these intersections. Understanding that climate change is a women’s rights issues and an environmental racism issue, one that directly will have and does have an impact on those people in our collective who already experience hyper-discrimination, will likely resonate with people already concerned about these issues and more within LGBTQ communities.
Linking the discussion to things that affect people in their closet sphere–home life especially–Now this is particularly challenging. Many of the climate change memes contain images of melting ice, stranded polar bears, and generic parched deserts that could be anywhere from Arizona to Australia. While these might stir some people already engaged with climate change, the average person is not directly affected by these tragedies, so ultimately are unmoved by the images. It would be easy to berate us humans for being so self-centered and unconcerned for suffering people and creatures in distant places, but I believe it is important to suspend such harsh judgments and simply accept the reality–most people are mostly concerned with what is nearest and dearest to them. In fact, this may be essential for personal survival.
For many white, middle-class people, the effects of climate change feel distant, like they take place on another planet. Many people of color know about the pollution inequity that exists in the US where people of color experience more pollution and diseases related to pollution like asthma than white people. Their environment is choked with toxins and wastes dumps while lacking in access to affordable fresh vegetables and to nature in nearby parks. As Brentin Mock often reminds his readers, there are many people of color concerned about the environment.
Still I can see that most people in the US are not engaged in learning about climate change or feel they can get close to the topic. Many feel overwhelmed and figure it is such a far off event (as if climate change hasn’t already occurred) and mostly affects people and species far from home.
The one point I make that gets more attention than any other whenever I talk about climate change is this:
I know things are bad on the planet. I feel bad for that poor polar bear stuck on an ice flow. I really do, but when I hear that the rising temperature is responsible for the rapid spread of coffee leaf rust, threatening global coffee production…well! The possibility of a world without coffee? Now that is alarming.
How about you?
What are some of the ways that you link climate change to your closest sphere, especially your home life?
What has been effective for you when talking about climate? Please leave a comment.