George Marshall wrote the book, “Don’t Even Think About It – Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change”. With a title like that, you might think George is resigned, cynical or blasé about our prospects for taking meaningful action on climate change. Quite the contrary. George Marshall is very upbeat and optimistic. He gives the distinct impression that our prospects of tackling climate have never been better. In large part, it’s because he believes he now knows what will work to spur action.
George is a key leader and sparkplug at Climate Outreach – an Oxford think tank and research centre. Climate Outreach’s work on climate communications has been recognized internationally as pioneering and groundbreaking.
George Marshall’s 2014 book has also received positive reviews: http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/dont-even-think-about-it-9781620401330/
A big problem is that climate action has become polarized along political lines. This split is preventing meaningful progress. George contends climate advocates have used language and framing that has only alienated the political right. He believes this schism must be repaired and has made it a personal quest to figure out how.
George is adamant that everyone needs to be involved in finding solutions. No one should be left behind, especially the right: http://climateoutreach.org/resources/election-guide-video/
The Marshall Plan could not be simpler: just listen. The most radical thing we can do is just listen to those who think differently from us.
This George Marshall TED talk explains his contention in more detail: http://climateoutreach.org/resources/tedxeastend-george-marshall/
How do we listen, especially to those with whom we disagree? A tool developed by Climate Outreach to enable industrial strength listening, is a “narrative workshop”. Narrative workshops have:
- Rigorous research design;
- A script and framework of tested questions that will be appropriate across linguistic, cultural and demographically diverse groups;
- The look and feel of a focus group without the expense.
The Climate Outreach vision is that any organization, with little expense, will be able to convene narrative workshops with just about anyone, anywhere. Narrative workshops will be used in countries throughout the world. Indeed, Climate Outreach has just completed a test of these workshops in India.
Narrative workshop participants will identify, among other things, what makes them proud; what they believe makes a good person; the qualities, concerns, insights, values and frames that matter to them. As George put it, climate action groups will have what they need, “…to listen to the people they usually don’t speak to.”
He tells me to check regularly with the Climate Outreach website. The narrative workshop tool will soon be available on line. http://climateoutreach.org/
Why is George Marshall so optimistic? He tells me that even the World Bank is now taking climate communications seriously. They have convened a task group (Alberta/BC/Ontario/Quebec are all members) to develop ways to better communicate carbon pricing policies. When the World Bank deems to listen, it feels a change of consequence has occurred.
George invites me to join him at Evensong in Magdalen College. We listen to the heavenly voices soar in that space as they have soared there since the 16th Century. It was easy to be transported to a place of contentment, gratitude and optimism.
If only listening to those with whom we disagree could also be so delightful!
That’s the hard road for Plan B* – being able to receive the gifts of understanding and insight from those who think differently from us.
We part with the hope that George Marshall might soon be able to visit Alberta. Our polarized debate could sure use his professional help. Alberta has a large right of centre political constituency that wants to play a constructive role developing climate solutions. They are not being engaged or well served by any political party at the moment. No one is truly listening to them.
Listen to those with whom we disagree. How hard is that? An Alberta Marshall Plan B* doesn’t seem all that radical after all. Or is it?