Peterson Toscano, a quirky, queer Quaker comic created an effective communication strategy to overcome climate change silence. Leave it to a comic to best the entire pantheon of professional psychologists and communication specialists.
Have you tried to talk about Climate Change and met this reaction?
I saw a look on people’s faces that I have rarely ever seen before. In fact, I did not know what to call it. It wasn’t resistance or anger, fear, confusion, and definitely not delight. The people I spoke to had an inscrutable look on their faces. Their expressions smoothed out and then went blank, drained of all emotion, even devoid of apathy. It was like I had been talking to a fully animated action figure when suddenly someone pulled the plug. Blank, dull, flat, even their eyes lost luster and focus.
... hear climate change and immediately downloaded into their brains are messages and images of dire gloomy overwhelming guilty hopeless dread. And polar bears. That literally short circuits the brain.
Collective Silence. I call it climate change-induced zombie syndrome.
"In real life, it seems that the most influential climate narrative of all may be the non-narrative of collective silence.” George Marshall
Here's his strategy:
- First: Identify some important part of yourself: As as (parent, race car driver, fry master at McDonalds…whatever
- Second: Reframe the climate conversation: say something like: I am not an environmentalist, but I am concerned about climate change. (and if you are an environmentalist try this: Sure, I’m an environmentalist, but I don’t see climate change as simply an environmental issue)
- Third, Explain yourself and one aspect of climate change that moves you but one that is outside of the traditional environmentalist talking points.
His example helps:
I had dinner recently with a friend and her parents who were visiting form California. Evangelical Christians, they have been to my house and know my husband well and they know about my work as a queer comic performance artist. After we ordered my friend turned to her parents and said, “Peterson is working on some new topics including climate change.” Before climate change-induced zombie syndrome set in, I blurted out, “Yeah, it’s funny, I’m not an environmentalist, but I am concerned about climate change as a faith issue.” My friend’s mother responded. “I’m not an environmentalist either,” she then added, “but how is climate change a faith issue?” Wait, What?!? someone not only listening but asking questions about climate change. Yummy. I told her, “Well there are so many stories in the Bible about water and wells. So much happen at wells—conflict, romance, new beginnings, despair, and hope.” She perked up, “Yes, I can see that, and you know we have had this terrible drought in California…” And we went on from there.