Letter: Meet people where they are on climate change

Published: 6/12/2019 10:58:04 AM
Meet people where they are on climate change

To the editor:

When I attended my son’s graduation at ConVal Regional High School last Saturday, I was initially glad that chemistry teacher Moira Milne challenged graduates to tackle climate change.

And then she went on. And what started as a call to action for one of our Earth’s most pressing challenges turned into something else. Graduates – presumably Milne’s intended audience – and other attendees seemed to come away with mixed reviews. Some embraced the challenge. Others felt insulted. And still others felt that Milne’s talk fell flat or was ill-placed.

I applaud Milne’s courage for raising the topic of climate change and pressing graduates to address it. But she could have approached her talk in a dozen alternative ways that would have been less divisive and more effective.

Dr. James McClintock is a climate researcher from the University of Alabama who studies how people communicate the topic of climate change. McClintock’s advice in a nutshell: Meet people where they are. Listen to what they have to say about climate change. Take in what they say.

Facts are good, but connection is better. Focus on places and things where you share values and connect climate change to those experiences and values. It’s a conversation, not a conquest.

You’re not going to have that epic conversion moment. People don’t like to be told they’re wrong. And if they’re forced to admit it, they usually resent the person who put them there.

Stay connected, stay focused and do what Anna McGuiness urged her fellow graduates, “be kind.” To see more advice on talking to others about climate change, visit nature.org/talkclimate.

Eric Aldrich



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