Having Positive Climate Conversations

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Action on climate change will be most effective if we raise awareness of how important it is to our future wellbeing. That’s why it’s crucial to have climate conversations with those around us. When approached in the right way, having these conversations can be persuasive and inspire others to take action for the climate. In fact, studies show people are more likely to be concerned about climate change if someone they trust shares their own concerns. Yes, it may be awkward or difficult to get started, but conversation is a powerful tool for generating awareness about the climate crisis.

As the weather gets warmer and we begin to meet with family, colleagues, neighbors, and friends again after a long year, we can start having fruitful discussions about the challenges we face.

If we don’t start a conversation, who will?

Read on below to get some useful tips for having meaningful, persuasive, and satisfying conversations about the climate crisis.

 

Who should I talk to?

Start off with those with whom you’re closest – family and good friends. It will feel easier and will be good practice for others you know less well. Then, reach out to your extended circle- coworkers, colleagues, neighbors, acquaintances and anyone and everyone! Studies show that most people in the U.S. think that climate change is happening and are worried about the impacts, so chances are you will be talking to someone who has a basis of understanding.

People jogging on a trail in a park and others riding bikes and walking under shade trees.

How should I have my conversation?                                                       

People tend to be most receptive to understanding and taking action on climate change if you lead with what they value and are interested in. For example, if someone has an interest in public health, you can start with the fact that hotter temperatures and longer summers will increase health risks, and Watertown residents will have to be prepared for a projected increase of 35 days per year over 90 degrees. Or if you are speaking with someone involved in the Watertown Public Schools, you can talk about all their recent sustainability efforts.

Sharing your own stories about what impacts you’ve seen, who or what made you care about climate change, concerns you have, and what you are doing about it, can personalize the discussion and help them realize that individuals do have agency to affect change.

It is also useful to ask the other person some open questions, like ‘how do you think will climate change affect our summers?’ or ‘do you know what our community is doing about climate change?’ so that it feels like an exchange of information rather than a one-sided lecture.

 

How do I get someone’s attention?

Skip the dull, academic articles on your first pass. Opt for fun, engaging resources instead like a beautiful tree map, a visual of sea level rise, or seeing how states make electricity. Or you can bring up a recent news article, such as this article describing the uneven distribution of trees in Boston neighborhoods and the resulting differences in summer temperatures.

Another option is to use humor. According to research, 90% of people felt more hopeful about climate change when exposed to good-natured comedy on the subject.

Fun facts are attention grabbers and can challenge conventional wisdom.Cartoon woman yelling in surprise.

Did you know a plastic bag is used for an average of 12 minutes but will remain in the environment for 1,000 years before it decomposes?

Use a fun fact like this to get someone’s attention before sharing more content.

The climate work that Watertown is doing is a great conversation topic as well—you can point them to the Resilient Watertown website or mention local groups such as Trees for Watertown or the Watertown High School chapter of the Sunrise Movement.

How do I get started?

It can certainly feel daunting or challenging to get started having these important talks. But the best way that you can start is by casually weaving climate change into your conversations, whenever the time seems right. You don’t have to make it a big, separate event. Just get chatting at family get-togethers, dinner with friends, on the playground or at the park, at school events or anywhere you are!

Remember that every conversation, no matter the outcome, is a valuable opportunity for learning and helps you grow as a communicator. It’s also important to keep in mind the value of listening and validating the individuals you are speaking to, because they may have something to teach you as well.


Make a habit this summer of engaging your peers, family, colleagues, neighbors and friends on climate issues. Please encourage others to take our surveys, stay up to date with our progress, and have conversations about how we can all be a part of creating a resilient future for Watertown. Your voice matters!