When your hair is on fire, what should you do? Run around and keep yelling, “My hair is on fire?” Or perhaps ask people for help? After all, they can see your hair is on fire. The same thing applies to the climate crisis. Our house is on fire. It’s time to stop, drop and roll because the way we are communicating about the crisis isn’t always helping. Especially the way we post on Facebook. But what if we could motivate more people to get involved and act?
Here are a few recent Facebook post headlines from climate organizations I’ve read this week.
- Climate change is drying up the Colorado River, putting millions at risk
- Planetary Emergency – Warming Oceans
- Climate change may eradicate ⅓ of animal and plant species in 50 years
- Global warming: The Earth just had its hottest January in recorded history
None of these posts had any introduction or comments. They were presented as information or data points. All of them are true. All of them are negative.
Cognitive scientists have studied how people react to repeated negative and fear-based headlines. Fear is great for capturing attention, but then we may get exactly the opposite of what we want. Fatigue, apathy and disengagement are likely to kick in. We think, “What can I do to solve warming oceans? It’s hopeless. Let me skip to this cute cat video.”
Mistake #1 is always making the climate discussion about catastrophe. Cognitive scientists suggest a remedy. While negative information can be important, it should be balanced in a 4 to 1 ratio with positive information. For example, balancing it with the following headlines.
- Jeff Bezos pledges $10 Billion to fight the climate crisis
- Tesla EV’s now the most popular selling sedans in America
- JP Morgan Chase pulls funding for arctic drilling
- FLP commits to 10 GWs of solar
The idea is not to make the climate crisis all puppy dogs and rainbows. It’s to show potential and progress.
Mistake #2 is presenting a climate information without any call to action.
The question we need to ask is, “What are we supposed to do as a result of this information?” There is an implied argument that if we just present you with facts, then you’ll figure out what to do next, and will act. But without any path to solve or relieve the problem, we get stuck. The remedy is simple. Provide a path to action. This can be done in your introduction. For example:
“I found this article about JP Morgan Chase stopping funding for Arctic drilling encouraging. I’m also working on a project to get US Bank to stop funding the Dakota Access Pipeline. I need your help. Can you join me Wednesday night etc.?”
Mistake #3 is not telling your story, your values and how you feel.
I’m always interested in how you feel about what you post. When I see no introductory comment, I just look at the post as noise and skip it. The remedy is to let me know how you feel. Here’s an example.
“I just read this article on the disappearance of coral reefs. It breaks my heart that my kids may never see the beauty of the oceans that I have. I believe we are all connected and part of the earth. As a result, I’m committed to work toward electing Public Utility Commissioners that support clean renewable energy. Read this and then join me.”
Remember, the climate crisis is large, scary, urgent and can seem overwhelming. We do this work because it is the right thing to do. The moral thing to do. We have no other choice. Our success will be measured over lifetimes, the product of thousands of projects by millions of people.
Better communications are the way we involve others. Next time you post, try these three remedies.
‘We are all connected. Savor the Earth!’™
L. Hobart Stocking