It turns out that talking about climate change is not really about what you say, but how you listen. In order to have rich conversations about this issue, we need to be willing to learn from each other. This is especially important when trying to connect with someone who may have a different viewpoint. Aligning our values helps us break down barriers and find common ground.
For a long time, the way society has talked about and reported on climate change has been mostly from a scientific perspective. Yet, personal stories are the best way to connect to such a broad issue to make it more relevant to people’s lives. It’s actually when we balance the stories with the science that we can place the facts and figures into context. Stories are how we make sense of the world around us; they help us remember things, and they draw out an emotional connection.
These aspects of listening to and sharing personal stories were the focus of the Talk Climate Institute, where over 65 people came together for two days to learn and practice how to talk about climate change. No matter the experience level, every attendee was considered an expert on this issue with something to contribute from their different background, history, and perspective. There are many different learning styles, so we were intentional with the ways we engaged with each other and the content.
Participants spent time discovering, writing, and sharing their own personal climate story. This was a favorite part of the Institute for a lot of people, especially when we opened up the floor for them to share in front of everyone at the Storytelling Slam. The stories included pivotal moments, impacts and loss, and solutions and hope. They also learned more about the connection of social justice issues with climate change, knowing that when we look at a specific issue like poverty, it is possible to create solutions that solve both climate change and poverty at the same time.
Individual action on climate change is never adequate for the scale of the problem, so people engaged in solutions workshops that took their personal climate story to a level of collective action. They learned different ways to share their stories with the media and elected officials. They learned how to build a community convening around their story, and how to connect their story with the science of climate change. We led a field trip to the Minnesota State Capitol at the end of the Institute, where they could see first-hand where policies are made, and how to talk with their legislators.
We created a program that we hoped would increase people’s confidence in understanding climate change science, how social justice intersects with climate change, how to communicate about climate change, and how to take action on climate change. It was evident that in every category, people gained confidence in their ability to explain, mobilize, and communicate about climate change after attending the Talk Climate Institute. We now have confidence in these people to bring their knowledge back to their communities and workplaces to take action. The top 3 words people chose with how they felt after two days were; connected, hopeful, and energized.
Testimonials from Talk Climate Institute participants:
“I liked the variety of voices, excellent leadership, and the shared wisdom!”
“Thanks for this event, it really got my brain churning around this idea of adding a story element to climate communication. I’ve known for a while that that’s important, but I didn’t realize how important it was to make the story *personal*. Thanks for making these conversations happen.”
“The most memorable part was listening to stories about how the climate, the trees, the glaciers have been affected by climate change. As a newcomer to MN, I found the stories moving because I didn’t know in what ways MN is affected by climate change.”
Lisa Troutman, Drawnwell
Overview of Talk Climate
Climate Change Science
Kristen Poppleton, Director of Programs, Climate Generation
Psychology and Social Science
Christie Manning, Assistant Professor at Macalester College
Reflective Listening Activity
Your Climate Story: Energize Action in the Media
Policy Action for Impact
Build Your Climate Change Presentation
Convening Your Community on Climate Change
Climate Cast Stories on MPR
Talk Climate Institute made possible with financial support from:
Scholarships provided by BWBR Architects