At the 2021 Planet Forward Summit, we were able to connect, strategize, and learn about environmental storytelling to promote change. From this summit, we learned strategies for effective science communication to promote conservation and protection against climate change. These are five ways to make climate change relevant to an audience when telling the climate story:
1. Understand that climate change happens at a scale that is beyond human perception.
In a similar fashion to the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change is an intangible enemy that we as humans can not perceive as a whole. We cannot touch or see it, nor can we solve it with one end-all-be-all quick fix. We can experience some of the hints of climate change, such as extreme weather events, but we will never know the full impact of how our actions impact the climate on a spatial and temporal scale beyond human limits. In his keynote, John Sutter described his documentary project BASELINE that may bring a creative solution to this problem. By following five children over a span of 30 years, we will be able to see changes in climate before our eyes in the form of film.
2. Know the needs and values of your audience.
To some people the climate crisis feels like a wave of impending doom and to others, it feels like white noise in the background of their lives. Both of these feelings are valid. To tell the climate story, it is important to understand the specific communities and forums that you are trying to reach. Everyone has different values and experiences, and it is important to keep those in mind as you are crafting your story.
3. Bring people into the conversation instead of casting them out.
Telling the climate story in a way that is positive and hopeful will promote change far more than negativity ever will. In his keynote, Al Roker talked about the story of climate change as one of hope and that people are capable of changing their minds about climate change when they are equipped with the correct tools. It is important to stress that it is not too late to make a difference!
4. Interdisciplinary collaborations can lead to innovation and impact.
Climate change is not just for climate scientists! The most effective storytelling happens when different people with different backgrounds work together. Working with a variety of professionals such as journalists, advocates, artists, and more can bridge connections and create effective stories.
5. The environment needs YOU.
Real changes happen when we take our unique skills and work together. It is important to understand that everyone has something meaningful to add when it comes to protecting our environment. We need to ensure that we listen and encourage diverse ideas from all communities. It takes all of us to make a difference!