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What to Say to a Climate Change Skeptic. [Video]

Simran Sethi: The Psychology of Why and How We Care

Let’s begin this blog with a show of hands.

Who here has ever had a conversation with a climate change skeptic?

Who here is a climate change skeptic?

Who here might be able to imagine the psychology of someone—climate change skeptic or not—who feels overwhelmed and incapacitated by the thought of climate change?

In recent years, Simran Sethi, lauded in 2007 by Vanity Fair as “the environmental messenger,” began to question why so many people, faced with so many facts about our bleak environmental future, still didn’t seem to be acting to remedy the situation. Looking for answers, she dug into extensive psychological research on the human brain, looking for the messages that would be most likely to make us, as humans, pay attention and act. At the same time, she found herself settling into a community in the heartland of Kansas, surrounded by people whose cares, at first glance, seemed to be very different from her own.

The result of both experiences is this powerful TEDx talk, which in my opinion should be shown to every non-profit, every communicator and every person who cares about engaging the public and making change.

So what’s the most important thing you can say to a climate change skeptic (or any constituent that you’d like to reach, engage, and empower)? For starters, stop thinking of them as “climate change skeptic” and think of them as a human instead. Then ask, “What do you care about?” and stop to actually listen.

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Merete Mueller

Merete is a writer and filmmaker, and was once-upon-a-time the Managing Editor of elephant journal’s print incarnation, from 2006-2008. Today, you can find her on Twitter @meretemueller and on her blog To The Bones. Her first documentary, “TINY: A Story About Living Small”, about people who have downsized their lives into homes the size of a parking space, premiered at SXSW in March 2013.