Updated: Sep 12, 2021
By Greta Mastro and Daisy Takang
Climate change is something you can bring to the local point of view. It is a terrible thing that touches our everyday lives. That was how Patricia Nunez Garcia led her talk with our intern group via zoom. Nunez Garcia is a specialist in sustainable international development and passionate advocate on behalf of the environment.
There are some key things to remember throughout her speech. On her list are the baby steps for people to follow in order to become successful in their goals of changing the world.
People aren’t perfect. Some people still believe that climate change is fake news. Nunez Garcia understands that it can be hard to convince people, even relatives. But there are ways to convince them. “If you’re talking about values, talk about how those values work for combating climate change,” Nunez Garcia advises. She gives an example of a fisherman who tracks where he fishes. Eventually, the fisherman had to travel further and further up the river to find the fish. Sea level rise was bringing salt into the freshwater, forcing the fish upstream. “Make them care about climate change,” she says. “Show how their values are affected by it in order to help them understand.” This fisherman was inspired to care about climate change because of his love for fish! Instead of getting frustrated, keep calm. People don’t like others yelling at them. Make it personal for the other person; empathize with them and it’ll be a real conversation instead of a screaming match. If the person is competitive with other countries, point to other countries' improved environmental technology, like in China. Make it personal, and the activist will have another person fighting global warming.
When being an environmental activist, sometimes people mess up. They look at every problem, every aspect of climate change and try to solve them all at once. Nunez Garcia warns against this sort of behavior, urging people to focus on one problem at a time by taking small steps. “And never make perfection the enemy of good.” It will only stall progress in fighting more problems. The more time people spend on one issue is time wasted on another issue that could be more beneficial. When an intern asks about their personal life and convincing her parents to get rid of their cars, Nunez Garcia advises against it. "Is there any other way that your parents can get to their jobs, to you and to their commitments? Can they evaluate switching to an electric car in the short or medium term? What else can they do to "compensate" those emissions?"
Don’t let climate change weigh too heavily. It’s a huge problem, but people are fighting. “You must have optimism,” Nunez Garcia announces. All the energy spent thinking everything is hopeless can be put to much better use. Fixing things beats groaning about broken things. “Don’t talk about how we’re doomed,” Nunez Garcia says sagely. “It’s not accomplishing anything.” People have made enormous strides in the race for the environment. The USA rejoined the Paris Agreement. Scientist Dr. Katharine Hayhoe and Dr. Michael Mann revolutionized the climate change efforts in face of threats on their lives. Massachusetts signed climate legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to protect environmental justice. These are only a few recent accomplishments. Hope will energize even more.
“The most important thing I would like you to take away from me is to listen to a variety of audiences. The most challenging to the most welcoming will change how you talk to people, both for the better.” Nunez Garcia wants people to learn how to make the perfect elevator pitch when it comes to climate change. “Know your audience.” Some people will want to help, others won’t. By listening to both, activists will learn how to navigate both waters and get their point across.
In conclusion, take baby steps. Know your audience in order to get them to join the campaign to fight climate change. It might be difficult to stop global warming, but people can’t give up. Optimism must exist in order to persevere. Even if there are hundreds of problems, don’t lose faith. Pick one, not all, and slowly move down the list. “I have hope,” Nunez Garcia concludes. “You and other active young people give me hope.”
Recommended youth groups from Nunez Garcia:
Fridays for Future
Youth Leaders for Climate Justice, Mass Audubon