Guest post by Amelia Fortgang
According to the Yale Program on Climate Communication, 70 percent of Americans believe that our climate is changing and will harm plants, animals, and even future generations. If most of our country agrees with this threat, then why haven’t we taken action on climate change? Why do we so often hear climate change being denied by prominent politicians? Why is our country not moving faster toward a sustainably-powered future and cleaner oceans? The same survey shows that 36 percent of our country does not talk about climate-related issues. This discrepancy illustrates that initiating conversations about our environment will be the key to addressing climate change as a society.
Everyone -- liberal and conservative, urban and rural -- will eventually be affected by climate change. An honest and engaged conversation about our climate can help someone understand how they personally will be affected -- from the inevitable flooding of their grandmother’s house to the die-off of fish affecting their diet. There are three things to keep in mind when having these conversations. First, connect climate change to personal values and experiences. Second, talk about the present, not a far-off future that may not affect someone. Finally, instead of using fear as a motivator, use hope. Paint issues in a way where steps can be taken to solve them. Most importantly, we all need to initiate conversations about these issues that genuinely matter to us.
In my home state of California, our water system is already impacted by climate change. We have experienced severe drought, intense wildfires due to a prolonged dry season, and historic rains leading to flooding and cracked dams. Our rising sea levels will affect many cities and towns up and down the coast, including San Francisco. I have been monitoring the San Francisco Bay every month and sharing the importance of water quality testing and conservation with my peers.
I look for opportunities to engage people in discussions about climate change, specifically its effect on California. When I volunteer at my local zoo, I talk to visitors about how the animals they are admiring will be affected by our changing environment -- and ways they can help. For Arctic Sea Ice Day, we highlighted how wolverines are impacted by melting Arctic sea ice. At school, I am co-leading the Environmental Club, where we discuss environmental issues and make our school more eco-friendly, for example, by reducing our use of plastics at school events. Finally, I talk about environmental issues with friends and with my family at the dinner table. These are small conversations, about majorly important topics. Each conversation moves us one step closer to taking action around the globe.
Editor's Note: Amelia Fortgang is an EarthEcho Water Challenge Ambassador from San Francisco, CA. Learn how you can join Amelia and take action to monitor and protect your water resources at www.monitorwater.org. For more ideas on how you can start conversations around sustainability and take action to address climate change in your community, visit www.earthecho.org.