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Bridging the climate gap

All Areas > Environment > Save the Planet

Author: Hannah Basnett, Posted: Monday, 30th October 2023, 09:00

I believe the climate is in crisis. Consequently, my lifestyle tends to revolve around people who share my core values, and living in harmony with our environment is fundamental to of our beliefs.

However, not all my friends and family share this perspective. Sometimes, gatherings turn into a whirlwind of clashing world views over cups of tea, and conversations being banned from the Christmas dinner table. These encounters can leave you feeling unheard and, admittedly, a bit disheartened.

I’ve discovered that connecting with climate change sceptics requires an understanding that extends beyond the arguments and statistics. It’s a challenge I’ve grappled with, particularly when discussing such a deeply held belief. Here’s how I approach these situations.

Active listening
When someone I care about denies the urgency of climate change, my initial instinct is to launch into a passionate defence of the environment. But I’ve learned that taking a step back, letting them speak, and truly listening can make a significant difference.

Clarify and reflect
To ensure I understand their viewpoint, I repeat back what they’ve said. It’s like a moment of vulnerability, putting aside my own convictions to make sure they feel heard and valued.

Identify underlying concerns
Often, climate scepticism is linked to underlying fears and insecurities. Recognising these deeper issues, such as concerns about job security or distrust in the government’s actions, can lead to meaningful discussions.

Find common ground
No matter how much we disagree on the causes of climate change, there’s usually some common ground to discover. During a heated discussion with my grandma who was adamant that climate change was a hoax, we acknowledged our shared concern for plastic pollution and a desire to grow vegetables.

Collaborative solutions
Rather than battling over the causes, we’ve started working out how we can address shared environmental concerns together – be it participating in local clean-up events or supporting renewable energy initiatives.

Foster informed discussions
Encourage open-mindedness by sharing credible sources of information and research. Suggest that both parties engage in reading materials from various perspectives to broaden their understanding of the issue.

Avoid confrontation
Resist the temptation to engage in heated arguments or confrontational language. Such approaches often lead to further entrenchment in one’s beliefs. Maintain a calm and respectful demeanour, even when faced with provocative statements.

Patience and persistence
Changing someone’s perspective takes time. I’ve had to be patient, engaging in multiple conversations with loved ones to gradually influence their views.

Lead by example
Perhaps the most effective way to inspire change is by living in alignment with my values. This has led friends and family to reconsider their beliefs, as they witness the positive impact of sustainable living.

Approaching climate change sceptics with empathy and a focus on common ground can lead to more productive conversations. It’s not about winning debates, but about fostering understanding and a shared commitment to preserving our planet for future generations.

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