On the 14th-15th of December about 30 young people, including me, were gathered to learn how to lead action on climate change. That sounds easy…
Well, the two days provided me not only with a large toolbox, but also lots of inspiration, ideas and new friendships. Let me share a taste of what we learned – maybe you will find some useful tools yourself?
So, how to lead action on climate change?
Well, the issues are not few. First of all, people are different. We have different values, different beliefs, different worldviews. Usually we create groups with the same worldview as ourselves, and we prefer being in the group rather than speaking up against it. This due to the fact that people act more on who you are than what you know. Almost all of us participating on the workshop were liberals. That says something. How to reach out to the rest of the population, to other groups of people, where the norm is not caring much about climate?
“People act more on who you are than what you know”
Climate change faces a lack of saliency and relative importance. We all agree that climate change is a serious problem, and that we have to do something. But beyond that – what happens? People in general do not do much. They go on as before, keeping to their habits. They sit around waiting for the politicians to do something, some technological breakthrough to appear, or the issues to simply disappear. Some even complain about the fact that so little is being done. Well, let me ask YOU a question – what have you changed in your life to reduce your own emissions? Not a pleasant question, right? Well, it is legitimate. If each one of us are not willing to change our way of life, why should the large emitting sectors change their businesses? Or why should the world leaders change their politics?
Know your audience
It’s all about finding the right arguments, ones that people can relate to. People usually do not care about the fact that some distant country on the other side of the globe, that they don’t even remember the name of, will soon stand under water. But, if you tell your friend that loves skiing, that in 2050 there won’t be many snow days left in Norway if the development continues, he might see it from a different perspective. By finding arguments that people can relate to, you show them that climate change is something that affects us all.
However, by using the same arguments over and over, you’ll only reach out to a certain kind of people – often those having the similar values as yourself. You must know your audience to adapt the message. The most effective arguments are those reaching out to people’s values. Do you have a friend mostly caring about making money? Show him examples of profitable green investments. That is a language your friend might understand.
The fear of changing
I believe many people are afraid of caring about the climate, because of fear. They are afraid of changing their lifestyle, to give up on nice habits, to lower the level of their life standards. If you tell someone about something good you did for climate, for example reduced your amount of waste, people can still criticize you for eating too much meat, or travelling by airplane, or something else you are doing wrong. Climate is tightly connected to lifestyle. In every thing you are doing, you are emitting CO2. If you were to stop emitting CO2 entirely, you would have to stop breathing. No point in that, is there?
“I believe many people are afraid of caring about climate, because of fear”
Try to find areas where you can contribute, where you can make a change. You cannot be perfect. No one is. But you can make a difference.
As you might have gotten an impression of, we learned a lot of interesting things during the two days. We got a large toolbox on various topics, which we are all looking forward to use actively. We were drilled in how to build our story, find the right arguments, and reach out to different kinds of people. We also worked in groups to build our own climate project and pitch it to the rest of the participants. Maybe some of the ideas will be realized?
The idea of the workshop started with the “Lecturer of the Year 2015” prize awarded to Karen O’Brien at the University of Oslo. The prize provided the start-up funds, and in addition the workshop was funded by cCHANGE, the Voices of the Future Project at the University of Oslo, and the Embassy of the United States in Oslo. cChange organized it in collaboration with science communicators Michelle Kovacevic, Sarah Dickson-Hoyle and Gabrielle Schittecatte.
A huge thanks to them all – it was very useful and a lot of fun.
And that, was a little taste of the workshop. Hope you found it interesting. Now, all that remains is to wish you all the best for the new year.