Welcome to 30 Days of Climate Action. Today's Action: Have a Conversation
Happy new year and thank you for signing up for this 30-day challenge. Let’s get right to today’s action!
Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, author of the new book, Saving Us, A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World, says the number one thing anyone can do about the changing climate is to talk about it.
A record 70 percent of Americans report feeling either very or somewhat worried about global warming, with the ranks of “very worried” swelling by 10 points since March of 2021. (The study’s findings were released before December’s tornados in Kansas and fires in Colorado, which I imagine would add a point or two.)
And yet, a majority of the concerned never talk about the climate crisis. Hayhoe writes, “seven out of ten say they wish they could do something to fix it; but half of them don’t know where to start and only 35 percent say they ever talk about it, even occasionally.”
How can we hope to solve a problem that most of us don’t even acknowledge?
We need to talk
How we talk about climate change matters. Rattling off stats makes people’s eyes glaze over. Lecturing leaves them feeling personally attacked. Fear may win over some but leads to paralysis in many others. According to Hayhoe, to effectively talk to someone about climate change, start with something the both of you have in common—and start from the heart.
For example, I’m very frugal. If I meet someone who cares about saving money, I can talk about how my concern about the climate has led me to consume less stuff, which has saved me a small fortune—and made me much happier. If I meet a fellow Canadian living here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I can talk about how a warming climate threatens maple syrup production. With another parent, I can talk about my biggest worry of all—the kind of planet my two daughters will inherit.
Topics of conversation
These are just some examples of what you might discuss.
Do you belong to the same church? Discuss how to be better stewards of the planet.
Do you come from the same area? I can speak with my friends and family back in Canada about the effects of warmer winters on sports like skating and skiing.
Do you share hobbies? I enjoy gardening and recently bought two rain barrels to help deal with our ongoing drought in California.
Do you work in the same field? As someone who works in publishing, I can easily steer the conversation toward must-read new books about climate change—like Saving Us!
Share personal stories. The 2020 California wildfires were terrifying. We couldn’t go outside for a month and even indoors, sometimes my eyes burned. Opening my bedroom window and smelling the acrid air on the first smoky day of 2021 induced immediate chest tightening. Here we go again, I thought.
Hayhoe says people care about the climate but many of them just don’t realize they do. So once you have identified a shared interest, connect it to how a changing climate affects it. (Hayhoe offers many examples in the book on how to do this.) Perhaps you don’t know the person you’re speaking with very well. Get to know them. Listen first. Then talk.
How to get started
Identify people you’d like to talk to. What do you have in common? How does it relate to the climate crisis?
Prepare to discuss applicable solutions. Talking about problems without offering solutions just leaves people depressed. If your kids attend the same school, for example, you can discuss starting a green team if the school doesn’t have one. (Go to Project Drawdown to learn about the top 100 climate solutions.)
Accept that you can’t control the outcome. Hayhoe says our task is to merely open the door, start a conversation and plant a seed.
I hope that everyone will read Hayhoe’s book. It not only provides the necessary tools for those crucial conversations but it also offers hope. Hayhoe lays out dozens upon dozens of examples of climate solutions that people around the world are already implementing.
In the meantime, watch Hayhoe’s TedTalk here for 17 minutes well-spent.
We can't give in to despair," says Hayhoe. "We have to go out and look for the hope we need to inspire us to act—and that hope begins with a conversation, today."
So today’s action, the first of 30 is… talk to someone about the changing climate. If you need to prepare first, then your action is to start thinking about who you can talk to and what you can talk about.
If you have a conversation today, please leave a comment to let everyone taking the challenge know how it went.