A few great tips on discussing climate change.

As friends and colleagues head off for thanksgiving celebrations and harvest meals I am reminded of the numerous conversations at staff meetings about how we talk about the work we do.  Much of our communications discussions mention either the “elevator speech” or conversations (arguments) around the thanksgiving table.  The “elevator speech” is the 3-minute summation of what you do.  But the thanksgiving dinner conversation is what’s on my mind today.

You know how it goes. You’ve just sat down to the dinner and your cousin/aunt/friend/neighbor turns to you and asks, “So, what do you do?” or “How is the river?” or the more contentious, “Seems pretty cold today, what about your climate change theory?”  And your response?  You probably sum up their knowledge of their topic in your head to tailor a response.  You then think about how long a response or conversation you want to have (a pat answer or more in-depth), and then you take in to account their world view or political leaning (do you want an argument?).

As HRWC expands our work on climate change and integrates it in to our existing work, climate change continues to be the big contentious and most political environmental topic.  As part of our work, we craft our language carefully depending on the audience, the targeted strategy and change we are after, and the way the message is delivered.

But in the informal, on the spot, thanksgiving dinner conversation, you have to think fast or suffer the consequences!

So, granted, you can convey your thoughts about climate change through your actions–walk, bike, or take public transportation to your thanksgiving destination, eat and buy locally, reduce your meat consumption, wash the dishes in cold water, reduce the thermostat and bring your slippers and vest, etc.

But for the conversation at the thanksgiving day table here are a few great tips from the Environmental Defense Fund.

1. Adjust how you say things based on who you are talking to,

2. Don’t talk to a brick wall unless you really want to,

3. Be informed for effective conversations; you won’t convince otherwise,

4. Speak on current solutions and steps being made to mitigate climate change, and

5. Listen to what everyone has to say and don’t go on the attack.

I found EDF’s site and tips useful as I head to Chicago to be with the large Rubin Clan for a few thanksgiving meals and lively conversations.  We are an opinionated and argumentative bunch, so I feel well armed!

I hope you have nice meals and conversations this thanksgiving, without any food fights over climate change.

Thank you for being part of a strong and healthy community working to protect the Huron River Watershed.