Want to Get People to Care About Climate Change? Start Personally Engaging Them More: Deepa Gupta
The following is a guest post from Deepa Gupta, co-founder of the Indian Youth Climate Network.
I've been reflecting on the climate revolution that I'm a part of. Contemplating on what has succeeded so far, what has failed, and what the ideal world looks like to me.
Have we been successful? Things have transformed in the climate space very quickly. A few years ago a lot of people had no idea, nor concern about this issue - including myself! The level of awareness has sharply increased in the past four years which is definitely a success; however that hasn't necessarily meant a proportional level of action. Unfortunately a lot of people have disengaged with the issue after learning about it, especially post Copenhagen.
Why is this a problem? Individuals are already bombarded with a lot of information every day, so to then be bombarded through media about whether global warming is real, false, good or bad, is pretty confusing. Climate change is a pretty overwhelming issue for individuals to deal with. It presents people with an intense situation which has high impacts, complex science, questions lifestyles and development, and pushes for major change. This means that it is very easy for people to choose not to deal with it, and instead ignore it and pretend that it doesn't exist or isn't their problem. So what is the solution? To engage with people personally. To build connections and friendships and talk to them in person, and to answer their questions and fears. I've had so many people say that they've never really cared about the issue or became confused and disengaged from it - until I spent the time to talk to them personally or in a group about it. Personal interaction is critical. All the big social movements in history have been through people personally connecting with each other. We need to remember that virtual communication in any form is simply a tool to assist communication, but shouldn't be relied on as the major form of engagement with people. However this "failure" can easily be learnt from and turned around to a success. And we already have thousands of living examples of this success.
The biggest success I've seen is the number of leaders who have stood up in communities worldwide and have engaged with people personally. And to see that success multiply where people aren't only talking, but using poetry, music and dance as well. By the time we got to Copenhagen there were people who had mobilised in every country on the issue of climate change, where the biggest successes involved people just going out into communities and talking to each village by village, or college by college. A friend of mine did just this and mobilised over 5000 people in Andhra Pradesh within a few months without the aid of any major form of media. Just his brain, heart and passion.
And this is what the future looks like for me. I feel that the climate revolution (which has already begun) is going to be a continual movement that will be driven by young people out in the world connecting with individuals and inspiring each other to live the change they want to see. Not only young people in activism, but young people designing the technology, the buildings, the infrastructure. Young people building the solar panels, the wind turbines and the biogas plants. Young people changing the way they farm, consume and waste. For me it's not just about living in a way that is a lot more ecologically sustainable - but a way that is more emotionally, mentally & physically sustainable for society overall.
A society where people leave the rat race and slow down. Where people have more time to contemplate the consequences of their actions, explore the forests, mountains and oceans, and more time to experience love and heal from heartbreak. A society where families stay together, and where there are as many women leaders as there are men leaders. Can you imagine how this world would operate if we lived each day with more love, patience and compassion? Because once this world is brimming with such values, caring for our planet will be second nature to us.
The world on the outside reflects the world on our inside. Each individual has just as much capacity to do good (or bad) as any other individual. One of the most inspiring ideals in people such as Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa, is that their hearts were always overflowing with love, patience and compassion. It was with that they were able to transform the people and the world.
This is what we need to do moving forward. We need to bring in a lot more patience and love in the lives of ourselves and others, so that we become more mindful, and as a society consciously build the world we want to live in and look after our mother earth.
photo courtesy of Deepa Gupta
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