How to Inspire Others Who Ask “What Can I Do About Climate Change?”

What do optimism, counterarguement, herd instinct, and hopefulness all have in common? Lisa Bennett, a communications strategist who focuses on engaging people to act on climate change, explains that these are aspects of our human nature that we should understand and tap into if we want to inspire others.

Although the climate challenge facing us is much greater than ourselves, we must bring it down to a human scale. Bennett explains that we must have “laser-like focus on how climate change is affecting people now” and “engage some of the best aspects of human nature, including our ability to be present in the here and now, to care more about people than facts, to be drawn to hope more than fear, to be willing to defend those weaker than us, and to focus our actions on things that are in our control — all the while being capable of believing in, even being thrilled by, the vision of a moon shot.”

In the end, we all need to feel that our actions will make a difference, otherwise we won’t make the effort to change. As civic leaders, we need to show our community members how each individual action adds up to systemic transformation. After reading the “10 things you want to know” in this Grist article, also take a look at ecoAmerica’s guide to effective climate communications. And Lead Onward!

10 things you want to know about human nature if you’re fighting climate change

By Lisa Bennett | Grist | Jun 10, 2015

I’ve spent nearly a decade thinking about why people get stuck on climate change: stuck in debates, denial, what looks like indifference, and the awful discomfort that comes with the question “But what can I do?”

In search of answers, I’ve interviewed dozens of experts in psychology, neuroscience, sociology, economics, political science, and other fields — and many more Americans across a broad spectrum of political affiliations, income brackets, and ages. I’ve also read widely to tap the thinking of those who were once more commonly looked to for insights into human nature, such as poets, philosophers, and spiritual leaders.

What I’ve come up with is my own climate-centric version of Robert Fulghum’s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Climate change has been my window into learning about human nature — or, at least, about what we humans do when faced with a challenge much greater than ourselves. The experience has also persuaded me that a better understanding of our own nature can help inspire a more effective response to what is happening to the natural world.

Here then are 10 things I’ve learned, along with some ideas about how these insights might be applied by those working on climate change:

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