Let’s talk: Climate and changing

In Canada, this coming May 23rd isn’t any old Monday. It’s Victoria Day, a national holiday, making for a 3-day weekend also referred to as May Long. In other years, when the holiday lands on the 24th, it’s often referred to as May Two-Four, referring not to the date but to the large case of beer. It also marks the weekend when Canadian gardeners traditionally start gardening in earnest, confident that frost warnings are behind them. But hands up all those who’ve been sneaking in some plants one or even two weeks ahead of May Long just because it’s been so wonderfully balmy? Thank you, climate change.

A field of lupins is photographed from a moving car.
I shot these lupins in Maine, U.S., from the window of our moving truck. I think it’s an apt visual for how fast things are changing.

Whatever your thoughts on climate change, as a gardener you’ve probably noticed shrubs and trees blooming earlier and birds nesting earlier. And then there are the news images of fires, droughts and freak storms. It’s overwhelming and, quite frankly, I often feel quite helpless about it all. But a couple of weeks ago, a newsletter popped up in my email feed that changed my perspective. The email came from Planetarian Life, a website and blog focusing on changing the way we eat for the good of the planet, offering some amazing recipes and lots of side info on how to make more sustainable choices in and out of the kitchen. I highly recommend it. This particular email was entitled The Most Important Thing. It highlighted Canadian scientist Katherine Hayhoe’s TED Talk about the “climate conversation”. Her talk, The Most Important Thing You Can Do About Climate Change: Talk About It, has gained 3.9 million views since it first aired in November, 2018. You can view the video at the bottom of this post.

We, the united stats

In that Planetarian Life newsletter, several statistics gleaned from Hayhoe’s talk were highlighted, including the fact that, when it comes to climate change, only 35% (of Americans) say they ever talk about it, even occasionally. Hayhoe goes into a bunch of enlightening info about how Americans feel about climate change, quoting from data the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication has been gathering for several years now. Here’s one of their charts, below.

The Yale program has discovered that Americans (and, pretty likely, most Canadians, too) tend to fall into six categories of belief in global warming. To read a short yet fascinating explanation about these six categories of people, go here.

The important thing is what the Planetarian Life authors beautifully point out:

Why don’t we talk about it? Because it’s one of the most polarizing issues in America today. We think there are only two categories of people— believers and non-believers—but we are wrong. The spectrum of beliefs is more nuanced.”

Planetarian Life

And therein lies a big challenge and, surprisingly, hope. What this shows is a really interesting window of opportunity. We probably won’t be able to change the minds of the dismissive but, as Hayhoe points out, we have an incredible opportunity to open up the lines of communication with the Cautious, Disengaged and Doubtful.

In her TED talk, Hayhoe says that 70% of Americans agree that the climate is changing, that it will harm plants and animals and future generations. But do they ever talk about this? Two thirds reply “never”.

“The real reason for our objections has nothing to do with the science and everything to do with our ideology and our identity.”

Katherine Hayhoe, TED Talk

She goes on to say that the best way to address those objections is to “start from the heart”–how climate change matters most to us, whether it’s through a love of outdoor sports, our religion which may teach caring for nature and the world around us or the future of our children.

The bottom line, says Hayhoe, is that to start making a positive change about global warming, you don’t have to be a “tree-hugging liberal” or a scientist. You just have to be a citizen of Planet Earth. “What we need to fix this thing is rational hope.”

And that begins with finding common ground with friends and family and get the conversation started about how we can make changes now. Get inspired by watching Hayhoe speak in the video below. I did.

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