Listening to yourself and others to be an effective climate activist

Six JCAN supporters attended an intense three-hour workshop on Saturday, July 8 looking at how to talk to people about climate change. The forum was led by a speaker named Anya Grenier of The Climate Mobilization ( The basic questions she addressed were:

  • How do we take care of ourselves, ensuring our continued motivation and engagement in climate activities?
  • How do we engage with the people we want to influence, whether friends, family, fellow congregants, voters, or policy-makers?
  • How do we use our time and energy efficiently to have the maximum impact?

Grenier challenged us (and we challenged each other during the many discussions) about effectiveness. Some of her major ideas included:

  • Corporations and governments are fiendishly adept at moving responsibility from their actions to individuals. For instance, decades ago, after manufacturers introduced a lot of disposable packaging, leading to an inevitable trash problem, the manufacturers started the famous "Don't be a litterbug" campaign.
  • We tend to beat ourselves up too much about small things (taking the car downtown instead of the bus, etc.). Stop wasting your energy on these little things--and reward yourself when you succeed in putting those thoughts aside. Concentrate on major work with a big payoff.
  • In a related point, don't waste time on things that have no impact just because they show that you are trying to get something done.
  • Listen to yourself, as said above, then give the same respect to other people. If they say they don't worry about the climate, what do they worry about? Take their needs into account, and we'll probably find a way to collaborate.
  • We deserve a viable climate (and clean air, and racial equality, and health care, etc.). We are not whining if we insistently demand these things.
  • Be honest. For instance, the goals of the Paris agreement are not enough. And many disasters we see around the world right now are climate-related. Climate change is not speculation.
  • People tend to respond to three types of stories: 1) the unexpected, 2) those who broke the rules, 3) stories with familiar themes and values. The popular story of veterans who went to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Standing Rock met all three of these criteria.