Since 2014 I have been trying to work out a tricky puzzle, “How do we talk about climate change?” There is no simple answer of course, but every presentation I have ever heard on climate communications and public speaking always starts with the same advice: Know your audience. Having your audience squarely in mind will help you decide what to say and how to say it.
After previous in-person climate communications workshops, participants walked away saying they felt motivated and inspired. Many told me new ideas and fresh approaches popped into their heads.
That is lovely to hear, but almost every time I walked away feeling like I somehow failed them. There has been a missing piece to the puzzle. No doubt people went on to share meaningful stories that may all have been influential in other people’s lives, but for me the quest to climate storytelling has continued.
Last August I experienced a major breakthrough. It came by chatting with Climate Communication experts Blair Bazdarich from the San Francisco Zoo and Hannah Pickard at Boston’s New England Aquarium. As part of NNOCCI, the National Network of Ocean and Climate Change Interpretation they stressed we need to stop talking so much about the impacts of climate change. Instead we need to talk about the impacts of the solutions we are offering. Help people see what a better world might look like.
In the same episode Citizens Climate volunteer, Sean Dague, shared a thought experiment: Imagine a world without fossil fuels. What will it sound like? smell like? look like?
It is an excellent show and one of the most downloaded of my nearly 50 episodes.
A New Approach
With all of that buzzing in my head, this weekend I decided to try a whole new approach with my climate story presentation.
- Tell a story that reveals the future you want to see and the share values behind why it is so important to you.
- Most importantly know your audience.
Ah, but here is the twist! For a moment forget about the members of congress, your friends on Facebook, or that uncle who you have been trying to reach for years. Instead tell your story to a new audience–YOU. Tell yourself a climate story that inspires you, motivates you, keeps you going even when it looks hopeless. Develop a climate story like that and see what happens.
You can watch Telling a New Kind of Climate Story for yourself. I’m curious about the stories you start to tell.
I also recommend watching the three minute video I produced along with Sean Dague. It gives people a chance to experience a new world, one without fossil fuels.