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CHRIS BLAKELEY
What can we do about climate silence?
August 11, 2021

The headlines are harsh and a lot to take in. Heat waves, fires all over the globe, towns burned up, weird weather.  

One would think, that given my work with Climate Solutions is focused on how to communicate on climate, and the fact that what's happening around the world is finally on the front pages everywhere, that I’d want to talk more about more global warming right now. 

Hardly.  

I’ll even admit that while talking recently, my mom brought up her concern about warming oceans and I wanted to change the topic.    

Yet we all need to talk about climate.

Pledge to have a climate conversation!

You might wonder: Does talking about global warming really matter?

Yes. 

We have all heard that a step towards addressing a problem is to acknowledge and name it. Social science research also shows that the more people talk about climate the more motivated they are to do something about it.  

Yet it turns out that nowhere in the country is there a majority of people willing to talk about climate regularly.  

George Marshall, author of the book  Don’t Even Think About it explores the concept of “climate silence,” with an added “meta-silence” where “each silence appears to be built on the other silences, but they have a common basis in the need to avoid anxiety and defend ourselves. ... Denial and anxiety are closely linked.”     

Breaking the climate silence can help people realize there is still time to address global warming. I love how my colleague Leah put it: “Talking about climate action right now isn’t opportunism; it’s realism. The polluters aren’t on pause, and neither is physics.”
 
Does talking about climate mean you have to talk only about about depressing news? Or that you need to enter endless debate with climate deniers?
 
No.

While in some ways, we’re all in a bit of denial if we’re not willing to talk about a big problem we need to fix, I’m not in the camp of trying to change the mind of a climate denier.  

A majority of people believe global warming is happening, believe that humans are causing it. New data from the Yale Center for Climate Change Communications shows that there are lots of folks feeling alarmed but also many who are willing to take action but haven’t yet. Let’s find those folks — likely in our networks — and talk with them! 


Take the Pledge.
 

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Author Bio

Kimberly Larson

Director of Communications and Engagement, Climate Solutions

Kimberly oversees the organization’s communications and engagement.   While at Climate Solutions, she has also helped direct communications for the Power Past Coal coalition to stop coal exports in the Pacific Northwest and supported various campaigns including I-1631 with the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy.   

Prior to joining Climate Solutions, she was the Media Director for the Public Interest Network, a family of organizations that includes Environment America, and the Assistant Field Director for U.S. PIRG in Washington, D.C..  There she directed national grassroots campaigns on federal policy issues including clean energy, global warming, forest preservation, consumer protection and environmental health and conducted media outreach on a California campaign finance reform ballot initiative in the fall of 1996.

She is 2008 Media, Communications, and Information Policy Fellow with the Rockwood Leadership Program.  She started her career with Green Corps, the field school for environmental organizing after graduating from the University of Vermont with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and a minor in Women's Studies.