In late March I had the pleasure of sitting on a panel for the Youth Climate and Sustainability Forum at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Faced by a hundred or so of the brightest young minds of today, I knew there was an opportunity to understand how to improve our communications around climate change.
We need to reach those who are less engaged in the topic and do not see climate change as a priority, or something that will affect them.
While pondering on what questions to put to the group, I was beaten to it by a young lady who asked, “what are the best methods for engaging your friends and educating them on climate change?”
Slightly stumped, as these were the sort of answers I was hoping to illicit from them, I hazarded a guess, based on my own personal experiences.
In my late teens, what really roused my interests and motivated me to learn more about climate change was television. Television, films and documentaries are powerful tools of communication. With engaging and exciting visuals and audio, they have the power to tap into our emotions and incite strong feelings for a particular cause or issue.
In this modern world, where 50-inch plasma HD TVs and smart phones with large screens are readily available, often watching something is much more tempting than reading an article online or in a magazine.
So, my response to the young woman was to try and share climate change media, documentaries, films, with friends, family and peers who would not typically watch that sort of content. Use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the other social media platforms to share this content and it will eventually get watched.
It’s circulating it with those who would not normally be watching it that is the key. As preaching to the converted will have limited additional value.
We’ve all had conversations with friends and family about the increasing severity of climate change impacts. The facts about climate change and the arguments for addressing it are so compelling, luckily the days of denial are behind us, and there is rarely resistance on the merits of action.
However, a common remark in such conversations is; “yeah it’s a rotten situation, but what can I do about it?”
The “what can I do about it?” question is more than often rhetorical. It is accompanied by a genuine and disheartening belief that there is nothing that can actually be done about it.
This is simply not the case. There are many things we can do, and should be doing.
Undeniably the most important thing is to communicate and raise awareness.
Communicating to local and national governments that they will only get our votes by prioritizing climate change is number one on the list.
The majority of the emissions driving the climate crisis are by-products from our fossil-fuel intensive economies, deforestation and farming practices. We need national and transboundary policies to change these systems. And we need them now.
The Fridays For Future movement spearheaded by Gretta Thunberg has sent shockwaves around the world, triggering conversations on climate change at a time they are so desperately needed.
Their goal was government action. The tools they use to achieve this; communication and advocacy.
For those of us that aren’t in positions of power or influence, these tools are by far our most potent.
Asides from demanding more from our governments and political representatives, we can also take individual actions that do make a difference.
At the UN we have tried to communicate the merits of individual action in articles such as the lazy persons guide to saving the world and 20 ways to plastic proof your routine.
Finishing everything at meal times, eating less meat and dairy, not buying food that is air-freighted. All of these things can be done without altering your standard of living. If you want to go a step further, reduce the amount you fly.
The point is, this problem is within our power to solve. We have to work together and we need everyone on board.
The more people educated and aware of the details of the climate crisis, what it actually means, and what they can do about it, the higher the chances that action will be taken by those that do have the power, to trigger the systemic changes we need.