Politicians by and large don’t bring up subjects people aren’t talking about, and the media isn’t reporting on, which just reinforces the spiral of silence.
Learning from the LGBT community
The kind of climate action we now need requires that we break this spiral, much the same way the LGBT community broke theirs.
A decade ago, many progressive politicians ran away from LGBT rights, and some even credit John Kerry’s 2004 loss to the issue. More than a decade later, we’ve seen a sharp swing in public (and political) support for LGBT rights. Many factors contributed to that shift, but winning communications strategy and tactics were key.
A central tactic was to get as many people as possible to start talking about LGBT issues. I’m not saying climate change and marriage equality are exact analogies since they aren’t — but turning the issue around did require people to talk about an uncomfortable subject because it mattered to them personally.
So let’s end climate silence now.
“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” — Sun Tzu, The Art of War
One more thing: Talk isn’t enough. You have to have the right strategy, the right message, as I’ve written.
“… remind everyone who represents you at every level of government that sheltering future generations against the…thinkprogress.org
Again, climate hawks can learn from the LGBT rights movement. As Salon explained, what “moved gay marriage into the mainstream in 2011” was “morality.”
They did it — and this is the lesson that the gay revolution holds for any progressive movement — not by asking for “tolerance.” They didn’t ask people to accept gay marriage by holding their moral noses. Rather, they set out to change change people’s minds about what is moral.
As the piece concluded: “Once third-rail issues transform into moral imperatives, impossibilities sometimes surrender to new realities.”
We know this is a winning climate message from the Yale/GMU report on “How Pope Francis Changed the Conversation About Global Warming.” It found “17 percent of Americans and 35 percent of Catholics say his position on global warming influenced their own views of the issue.”
The Pope helped more Americans:
- Realize global warming will harm people here and abroad
- Become more concerned about global warming
- See global warming as an issue of morality and social fairness
So if you want to change the climate conversation, then help start the conversation. Yes, it’s important to reduce your own carbon footprint. And it’s vital to vote for candidates who support climate action and against candidates who don’t.
But before, during, and after you do those things, you must talk about them to friends, family, and even total strangers.
Until climate silence ends, climate science and solutions will not win the day.