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5 good reasons not to talk about climate (and why you should anyway)

This week marks the start of our #CountdownToCOP campaign, where we encourage people to sign up for one or more of the 16 Count Us In steps, and make the changes which really matter. We will have a blog every Sunday until the international climate talks in November, COP26, focussing on one of the 16 steps each week.

To kick us off, Catherine Ross, our Sustainable St Albans trustee and author of our Climate Conversation pack, focuses on the Count Us In step “Talk to Friends”. She looks at all good the reasons not to talk about the climate.

1. It’s weird and uncomfortable. Who brings up climate change with their family, friends and colleagues?

It’s true, talking about anything serious with friends, family, and colleagues can be difficult.  Asking people to talk about climate change feels a bit like talking to them about weight loss or giving up smoking; you don’t want your mates to feel you are judging them, or being ‘holier than thou’. Plus, it means mentioning something frightening and sometimes overwhelming; the havoc climate change is wreaking on the world.

But, the thing is, talking about climate issues is critically important. 

The well-researched Count Us In framework lists “talking to friends” as one of the 16 highest impact steps you can take. When the world-renowned climate scientist and communicator Katherine Hayhoe gave her TED talk, she chose to call it “The most important thing you can do to fight climate change: Talk about it”. 

If you do one thing after reading this blog, watch her talk.  

The chances are, your friends, family and colleagues will be glad of a chance to talk. Our recent residents survey tells us 86% of people are worried or very worried about climate change. They may well be relieved that you have made the first move.  

2. I’m no climate expert. I don’t know enough to talk confidently about climate change. 

I understand this one too.  What if someone asks a tricky technical question about carbon dioxide levels, ice ages, or carbon capture, and you’re left feeling out-on-a-limb? 

If this is your worry, then here are three things to remember; 

First, no-one can argue with you about how you feel. If you say to someone, “I’m worried about climate change, and I’d really like to understand better what I can do about it.  Do you feel the same way?” then you’re not claiming any special expertise, but you are opening up a conversation.  You’re engaging as equals, who want to know more. 

Second, there are loads of materials out there to help you.  For example, Sustainable St Albans has a ready-made pack called Climate Conversations which takes you step-by-step through a conversation. Using Climate Conversation means you can have a climate conversation with your friends, family or colleagues without anyone needing to be the expert. 

Third, you don’t need to be a climate scientist to talk about the actions you are going to take in your own life. You’re an expert on what changes will work for you, so focus on that. The Count Us In framework gives you the information on what steps are most effective, and you can use this to talk to you friends and family about which steps would work for them.  (You can sign up for Count Us In as part of the St Albans Climate Action Network, #StAlbansCAN.)

3. I’m not convinced it will make a difference. 

Having face-to-face conversations with your friends and family might not directly reduce your carbon pollution but it’s one of the most important things you can do. Research shows that friends and loved ones are some of our most trusted sources of information. By talking about your experiences you’ll raise awareness of climate issues and you might help someone else feel confident enough to take their first step too.

There are other benefits too. Sharing your experiences with others might give you the support or determination to succeed with your own next steps.  You might find they have tips for you too, for example about local solar panel installers. 

Talking can also help you and those close to you deal with any eco-anxiety you have. By sharing your feelings and realising you aren’t alone, it can help you cope. 

Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

4. I don’t have a clue where to begin.  How do I start a conversation about climate change?

You will know the best way with those close to you, but here are possible openers:

  • “Do you know any good local bike routes? I’m trying to ride more because I’m worried about climate change and I’m looking for recommendations.“
  • “I had a great vegan takeaway last night.  I wasn’t sure whether I would like it, but actually it was delicious.  I’m trying to eat less meat because I’m worried about climate change.” 
  • “This jumper was a great bargain, do you like it?  I found it online in a secondhand store. I’m trying to buy fewer new clothes because I’m worried about climate change.”
  • “My daughter was really upset about climate change last night, and I felt a bit helpless because I didn’t know what to say to make her feel better.  Does that happen at yours as well?” 
  • “I’ve signed up for the local St Albans Count Us In page because I’m worried about climate change, and want to do something more. Have you heard about it? I’ll send you the link.” 

Choose a small practical thing to comment on, which is natural for you to say, and then link it to how you feel. Ask for their advice or input. Then see how they respond, and take it from there. 

It is often better to avoid talking about climate change in the abstract. Think about the things that matter most to the people close to you, and explore how taking action can help them protect the things they love and improve their lives day-to-day. That’s different for different people, but might mean starting with the state of the lake in Verulam Park, how air quality affects their child’s asthma, or how cycling will help with getting fit. 

Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

5. I do want to have a conversation about climate change, but I don’t know how.

This is where Sustainable St Albans can help you.  You can use our ready-made Climate Conversation pack to guide you through. 

You simply gather a group of friends or colleagues, either on-line or in person. We provide all the materials you need to hold your own Climate Conversation.

A Climate Conversation is a chance to take time to discuss the climate crisis, your thoughts for the future, and deciding what actions you could take. It takes about 2 hours, or a couple of lunch-hours at work.

You could use the Climate Conversation pack at a work team meeting, in your book group, faith group, mums’ group, or any other small group you are part of.  Why not send a WhatsApp today to a few people, and see if they are interested? 

Our website has all the information and FAQs.

If you want to know more how to talk about climate, we also really recommend the Climate Outreach’s Talking Climate guide.  They suggest useful mnemonic based on REAL TALK. 

I know it might not be easy, but it’s important and worthwhile, so please do try.  Good luck with all those conversations!

We’re in! – are you? Local residents Emily, Lizzie, Alastair, Kate, Caroline and Catherine are all taking action.

Join in with #CountdownToCOP today

It’s easy to join in with #CountdownToCOP. Environmental groups of St Albans District have come together to set up the St Albans Climate Action Network who are hosting their own special St Albans District Count Us In page. Simply visit the page, explore the 16 steps and pledge to take one step by choosing “Take a Step”. When you register, tick that you are part of the “St Albans Climate Network” to have your step counted on the St Albans page.

You can track the carbon impact of your own actions. As more people join, we will all see our cumulative efforts across St Albans, Harpenden and the villages. 

1 thought on “5 good reasons not to talk about climate (and why you should anyway)”

  1. Great post. I found your ideas really useful for being brave enough to talk about climate change with friends. I hope it is Ok I put a link to this post in my post about climate conversations at treadingsofter. I think Sustainable St Albans is doing a fabulous job at raising awareness and sharing stories for your community. Its great to read.

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