Image: Karen Stabenow "Wrong Way"
This time for the Human Impacts Institute’s second online Impacts Hour, our executive director Tara DePorte traveled to New Haven, CT to sit down with Professor Tony Leiserowitz. He directs the Yale Program on Climate Communication in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. In more of an interview format, they discussed how consumer pressure, social norms and political behavior are not fully utilized for social change. Tony put an emphasis on making connections, or how to connect a seemingly abstract issue such as climate change to our lives and values. It’s an issue that’s going to affect all of us, our identities and who we are as people. On his website, yaleclimateconnections.org, you can find stories of everyday people taking the issue seriously and doing what they can to help solve it.
Tony went on to describe how our two main types of thought are connected. Rational, analytical thinking enables us to do incredible things, while our experiential system has allowed our species to survive. Both are operating at the same time. Our past cultural assumptions have told us that rationality is good and emotional thought is bad, but we can’t make rational decisions without emotions. We need to translate science into emotions and images in order to engage our experiential system. Most people don’t know the language of climate policy, another reason why connecting facts with emotions is one of the biggest challenges for climate change.
In the climate conversation, we generally talk more about the problem than the solutions. While an accurate perception of risk is very important, small actions in aggregate are going to change things. We need to take the first step, then the next step and the next in order to see what we can contribute individually.
Tony goes on to say that this is everybody’s issue, and that all other issues are going to get worse if we ignore the fundamental issues of climate change. “This is an all hands on deck moment,” he remarks.
What can we do collectively together? What is the role of efficacy?
Tune in with Tara and Tony to find out!