How I try to break climate silence

When it comes to climate change many people are still hesitant to talk about it even though many experts have stated that it's important to break "climate silence" whenever an opportunity presents itself. For example, here is how John Cook put it in the article 16 Sustainability Leaders Weigh In: How YOU Can Help To Reverse Global Warming:

"The most effective thing we can do as individuals to fight global warming is break the climate silence. Talk to our friends, family, and most importantly, our elected officials – letting them know we care about the issue of climate change and want to hand over a safe world to our children. It’s only by building social and political momentum that we will make the needed transition to clean, renewable society.

From Jill Kubit:

"From my perspective, talking about climate change is the single most effective thing that you can do.

By this, I don’t mean having an argument with someone in your family who disagrees. I mean thinking deeply about why you care about climate change – why this matters to you – and then sharing this perspective with your own friends and family and with your community. This action – talking about climate in an authentic, personal way – helps normalize the idea that climate change is an important, urgent issue and breaks the invisibility or climate silence that currently exists within our culture. [...]"

From Katharine Hayhoe:

"The single most important thing we can do about climate change is, talk about it!

Studies have shown that not even 25 percent of people in the U.S. hear somebody else talk about climate change more than once or twice a year. The biggest challenge we face isn’t science denial. It’s complacency: nobody thinks climate change is going to affect them personally, and why would they if we never talk about it? [...]"

By now, I guess that you get the gist! There's even a cartoon for this in John's new book "Cranky Uncle vs. Climate Change":


Anybody who knows me, will be aware that I'm all for "breaking climate silence" and will do just that given half a chance! So, the rest of this blog post will list some of the things I do or at least try in order to break climate silence. Please use the comments to share how you try to do it and what - if any feedback - you received.

Some recurring activities

scarfOn Fridays - in support of "Fridays for Future" - I often go to the office wearing some climate-themed apparel like a t-shirt and scarf printed with Ed Hawkins' climate stripes. Colleagues sometimes comment on the colorful scarf without realising what the stripes signify and this then presents a small opportunity to "talk climate". As a t-shirt - even if long-sleeved - is too cold during winter, I also have the "uncozy sweater" from WWF Switzerland which on first sight just looks like a very colorful sweater to wear during winter. But, if colleagues take a closer look they quickly get what it's all about.

In the company I work for we have a little program called "Mystery Lunch". This is basically a platform to organise "blind dates" to have lunch together with a colleague from another department you normally wouldn't have much contact with in the course of your daily work. One obvious purpose is to network and to get to know people and a little bit about the processes from other areas of the company. But, there's usually also ample time to talk about non-work related topics, like each other's spare time activities. To by now most likely nobody's surprise I use this to bring up my climate-related activities which thus far have always shown to pique my colleague's interest. It also comes in handy that my office isn't far away from the main cafeteria, so I'm usually able to hand out a flyer about Skeptical Science I just happen to have lyinging around on my desk before we say our good-byes!

pole-to-poleAt least once or twice per year, I offer a climate-themed tour through our local zoological and botanical garden "Wilhelma" in Stuttgart.  During the 90 minutes tour I explain the basics of climate science like the greenhouse effect and how some of the species we have at the Wilhelma are already or will most likely be affected in the future by climate change. I've been doing these tours since 2014 and to learn more about them, please check my blog post "From Pole to Pole - a climate-themed tour through a zoo". The feedback I get at the end is positive and - from what I can tell - more engaged than when I present basically the same material in a lecture room (at least if the weather is cooperative and it's neither to hot or wet outside!).

Some other activities

Last year, I got the impromptu opportunity to host a 30-minute long "unconference" session while at the SAP TechEd conference in Barcelona and used that to "Talk about climate science to break climate silence" with eight other conference attendees on a Thursday morning. I'm already hoping for a repeat opportunity at this year's conference to perhaps introduce others to the Cranky Uncle app!

At the end of November I got the chance to do a presentation during a SAP Community call titled "Taking on fake news about climate science". The video below is a pre-recording of the presentation which is available as a PDF-file for download here.

By now, I have different versions of this presentation readily available in both English and German which I can then easily adapt as opportunities to do a presentation or workshop come up. Thus far, this year, I've used the somewhat more technical version during a workshop for Scientists for Future and the version geared towards a more general audience at an event for our local conservation group. The presentation material is all based on slide-decks originally created by John Cook who is kind enough to create versions for me without any text on them to make translating them into German a lot easier.

crankybookAnother small thing I'm trying out now that John Cook's Cranky Uncle book is available is having a copy lying on my office desk at work to see if it'll pique my colleagues' interest enough to actually pick it up and leaf through it (of course during breaks!). If they do, it'll be yet another opportunity to talk climate!

As you can see, there's quite some small and - admittedly - not so small stuff you can do to try to break climate silence. Not everything will be something to try for everybody, but it's nonetheless worthwhile to start with an activity you feel comfortable with and to not be discouraged when there's no immediately visible impact or feedback. You'll never know until you actually try and you may just be surprised by the reactions you get!

Posted by BaerbelW on Friday, 6 March, 2020

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