A more authentic approach to talking about climate change can advance the conversation more quickly, while saving climate hawks from a bad case of vertigo, psychology of climate specialist Dr. Renée Lertzman argues in a recent post on Resilience.org.
“For too long, there’s been a preoccupation with a ‘hope and despair’ or ‘doom and gloom’ binary,” Lertzman writes. “How do you motivate action in the face of what can appear to be an overwhelming situation? How do you inform without scaring people into inaction? What’s the magic formula? Some fear, with a dash of hope? Go all in on talking about solutions? Lay it all out there—the good, the bad, the ugly—and trust people can cope with it?”
- The climate news you need. Subscribe now to our engaging new weekly digest.
- You’ll receive exclusive, never-before-seen-content, distilled and delivered to your inbox every weekend.
- The Weekender: Succinct, solutions-focused, and designed with the discerning reader in mind.
The problem with that frame, she says, is that “humans aren’t binary. Ricochet too much and you end up going in circles, a victim of emotional whiplash.” The solution is to “blow up the dichotomy altogether,” by adopting a “both-and” attitude toward the two sides of the climate story.
“A more nuanced—that is to say, a more authentic and more human—mode of communication can actually enhance people’s capacities for response,” Lertzman advises. “Yes, things are very bad, and yes, things are likely to get worse; and yes, many people are working on mind-blowing innovative solutions; and yes, humans have tremendous capacities; and yes, it’s also really hard and frustrating; and yes, you yourself as a citizen and an individual have a vital role to play in this unfolding mess. And yes, you may feel pretty bummed out at times. If climate change feels hopeless, that’s a natural feeling to have. All the more reason to come join us. You matter.”
That approach, she says, “helps us move through the harder stuff much faster and more readily than if we deny or keep at bay the scarier feelings that can come up. The task of telling the climate change story actually becomes easier, not harder.”
“Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be slain.” —G.K. Chesterton