By Natalie Cook, YEA! MN Program Coordinator and John Smith, Education Program Assistant
“Tell us about a conversation that moved you … “
When the YEA!MN students asked to have a training about how to talk to a climate denier, we started thinking big. Drawing from John’s educational background and Natalie’s background organizing with Minnesotans United, we knew that we could do more than help equip young people with facts and figures, because, really, when does that ever change someone’s mind and drive them to action anyway?
Moving people. A social movement has to not only “raise awareness” in the public, but move people to newly heightened feelings/beliefs and ultimately some form of action. It is really built of thousands of “micro-movements” where individuals and groups make changes and, over time, these micro-movements reinforce one another and create cycles of empowerment and change. Those movements don’t come from our heads, they come from our hearts and that’s what we set out to teach our YEA!MN students.
The idea of changing minds and spurring action on climate change by not leading with the science, and not having a debate but a two way conversation can be counter-intuitive. And really, its easier for us to talk about science than our emotions, but we had seen it work over and over on the “Vote No” campaign. This idea is catching on all around Minnesota. For example, Julia Nerbonne and Erin Pratt of Interfaith Power and Light are launching a midwest project, “Climate Conversations”, funded through RE-AMP. They will be doing this in congregations around Minnesota.
We challenged YEA!MN students to think of the person in their life who they are most nervous to talk to about climate change. They paired up and had their partner play that person. The students were asked to not debate or fight, but rather have a two-way conversation, ask questions and understand where the other person was coming from. We challenged them to not talk about carbon emissions and CO2 levels, but the values that bring them to the table and why they care. Many of them spoke of future generations, their faith, and the importance of caring for others. This is not an easy lesson, something that both of us still struggle with, but we believe our values and our stories is an important way our movement can gain momentum.
Additionally, the Will Steger Foundation is in the beginning stages of an LCCMR-funded project called “Minnesota Stories in a Changing Climate” which aims to capture stories of how Minnesotans are adapting to and preventing climate change. This project will highlight real stories and projects happening around the state.
So, what moves you? What conversations or learning moments have moved you in the past? And, as you are interacting with those you care about consider: how can we create those micro-movements for others?