The following tips will help you draft and deliver climate change messages that engage your community and inspire action:
Establishing a new program to specifically address climate change may tax the time and resources of many land trusts. Rather than launching new programs or publications, try incorporating climate change concepts into outreach programs, walks, and communications materials that already exist. Focus on what your land trust already does well. Then, improve it by adding a climate change element.
Climate change is a complex process, and many of the scientific terms are unfamiliar. Skip the jargon and focus on terms we can all understand — temperatures will get warmer, winters will be shorter, sea level will be higher, and so on. Introduce more complex terms by slowly building a climate change vocabulary. Use that vocabulary to focus on examples of the effects of climate change at a local level.
Climate change is a global challenge, and many of the most dramatic impacts — drought in Africa, ice melt at the poles — are far removed from our everyday lives. Few Americans understand how climate change could possibly affect them at home, at work or in their communities. As a result, many simply ignore climate change. Make climate change real — and impossible to ignore — by focusing on how climate change impacts will affect the people, places and environment in your local community. Adapt your message to your community, and to what your community members care about. For example, land trusts near popular trout streams might want to talk about how the coldwater fish will decline or disperse as water temperatures rise. Likewise, land trusts in New England may want to highlight the fact that rising temperatures may push the maple syrup industry out of New Hampshire and Vermont, and into Canada.
The largeness of climate change can be paralyzing. After all, how can one person’s actions make a difference when the problem reaches clear around the globe? Motivate your community by focusing on actions with local results and tangible benefits. Empower people to take action by highlighting the many things — big and small — people can do to improve their environment and mitigate causes and effects of climate change at a local level. People naturally feel more engaged when they are empowered to make a difference.
Emotional connections are powerful. When something we care about is threatened, we respond. When climate change threatens the things we care about, it becomes real. Land trusts already excel at helping people fall in love with the land around them. By focusing on the threats to that land — for example, climate change will harm this thing that you care about — land trusts inspire their audience to care about climate change and to take action.
Each land trust has a unique constituency. Values are important. Listen carefully to your audience, and adjust your land trust’s actions and discussions accordingly. By listening to your audience, you will be able to craft climate change messaging that resonates with your community. Consider the following tips:
You needn’t re-invent the wheel. Instead, consider incorporating climate change messaging into existing education and outreach work. For example: