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How to Talk About Climate Change Without Being a Total Downer

I don’t know about you, but it is easy to be that person at the party who brings the festivities to a halt. “Hey Peterson, what’s going on in your life and work?” I straighten up, smile, and say, “I’m really excited about my presentations about climate change.” People tense up. They expect the prophet of gloom and doom and shame and blame to start spewing forth.

It is easy to do. Climate change is downright dire and scary. I learned a long time ago though when talking about sexuality and the Bible, people need help to come close to these hot topic issues that stir up strong, negative emotions.

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Sara Peach at Yale Climate Connections asked me about the role of comedy and climate change communication, so I told her about the Homo No Mo Halfway House.

Toscano said in a recent interview that comedy can be an effective strategy for engaging people in difficult topics. Toscano, who is gay, spent nearly two decades undergoing conversion therapy, the discredited practice of attempting to alter a person’s sexual orientation. After abandoning the therapy and coming out, he struggled to talk about the harm he had experienced.

“I needed to tell that story, but telling it directly was too overwhelming for me and my audience,” he said. “It was too heavy, and it was bringing in hot-topic issues of faith and sexuality that provoked people. I realized I needed a different way.”

He tried comedy, eventually writing and starring in a 90-minute satirical play called “Doin’ Time In The Homo No Mo’ Halfway House: How I Survived the Ex-Gay Movement!

Toscano said sharing his experiences in this way made the topic more approachable.

“The problem is, when people are tense, particularly when they’re afraid or ashamed or angry, they don’t think as clearly,” he said. “So comedy helps, because it can address a lot of those things. It relaxes the audience physically and mentally so they can hear what you’re saying.”

To read more of the article (and see delightful gifs of Debbie Downer from Saturday Night Live) check out Yale Climate Connections’ Advice Column.

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Author: Peterson Toscano

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

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