A good friend of mine, Larry Lazar, just asked this friends on Facebook to answer this question:
What are 3 Things You Can Do to Fight Climate Change Right Now!
Here is the response that I wrote for Larry and for you:
1. DO WHAT YOU CAN TO REDUCE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT. (buying local, eating organic, vegetarian, weatherizing your home, buying secondhand, carpooling, using public transportation when possible, unplugging appliances, refusing paper & plastic bags at the grocery store, not buying bottled water, turning the thermostat, etc.) According to science teachers that I talked with, all these little things do add up and make a difference. Besides, the undecided and skeptics need to see that we are walking the walk.
2. ENGAGE YOUR NEIGHBORS AND PEOPLE YOU MEET ON THIS SUBJECT. People need to see that “we” are nice people, just like them. Our skeptical neighbors and co-workers need to see that we are likable, knowledgeable, engaging, listen to their opinions and fears, and have practical solutions for them. My mentor, Steve Robinson, who was a ranger in the Everglades for 25 years used to say that “the only way to deal with your enemies is to engage them.”
Yes, it is a huge waste of energy to think we can immediately convert closed-minded skeptics. Julia Butterfly Hill in her book from over 10 years ago, “Legacy of Luna” talked about her successful negotiations with Pacific Lumber President John Campbell. She was protesting to protect the Headwaters Redwood Grove from being clear cut and in particular the Luna Redwood tree where she was staging a yearlong tree. She referred to her conversations with him like “water wearing away the stone. Water acts different from a hammer and chisel, which chip away at something. I was a constant presence that sooner or later would be heard. Not because I’d pound the message, but because I was always there.”
If I can relate a story, both John Cook of Skeptical Science and I have had similar experiences of our dads being skeptics for years, then one day sharing with us that they accept the science of climate change. My dad still listens to Rush Limbaugh. However, by my love, presence and dedication, he accepts that climate change is real and he is very encouraging of my path to educate others on this subject.
3. STAY HOPEFUL. Even if the scientific future projections are extremely scary and daunting, please remain hopeful! I recently heard Susan Hassol, Director of Climatecommunication.org speak at the American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco. During her presentation, she stated that “Most people will find it difficult to accept the science of climate change if they feel there is no solution.” She was citing the December 2010 research paper, Apocalypse Soon? : Dire Messages Reduce Belief in Global Warming by Contradicting Just-World Beliefs by Matthew Feinberg and Robb Willer who uncovered this eye-opening finding with experimental studies on 97 Berkeley undergraduates. Susan Hassol also explained to me by e-mail today “that people who believe in a ‘just world’ have trouble accepting something that is hopeless.” The study seems to show that dire messages without providing hope are likely to backfire. Too much emphasis on doom and gloom without providing hope can influence people to be even more pessimistic about climate change and the science that supports it.
As I close, I would like to conclude with one of my favorite quotes from environmental activist, Julia Butterfly Hill. My favorite quote from her which motivates me every day is “Eternal optimism followed by loving action is the most powerful tool that I own.”