It’s a pretty big week within the environmental movement, both locally and worldwide. The Al Gore powered Climate Reality began their ‘24 hours of Reality’ on 2pm Tuesday and Earth Day Canada’s EcoMentor’s program kicks off their ambitious Beyond Green conference in Toronto at 7pm Friday night. Both projects share a similar objective: to bring those who are concerned about environmentalism together to share knowledge, educate, and push for action. Climate Reality’s #CostofCarbon is an especially clever multi-use marketing tool, as it works both as an educational tool (i.e. ‘this is how much increased carbon in the atmosphere costs’) and a call to action (i.e. ‘we need to internalize the cost of carbon into our markets’). More locally, the Beyond Green conference being held at U of T aims to bring 1000 environmentally minded youth together to discuss seven different aspects of environmentalism and to provide them with tools to go out and take action to better our world.
These events provide a variety of opportunities. Two of the biggest are the chance to build stronger lines of connection within the environmental movement, and to allow for environmentalists of all fields to learn from one another. But I believe these events have an additional benefit. A benefit that is perhaps not as obvious, yet should not be missed. Personally, a vast percentage of the time I spend talking about environmental issues is spent talking with another environmentalist. Now, perhaps this puts me in a minority, but I do not believe it does. People are socially trained to speak with others in the context of shared interests and to avoid topics which could be divisive. The old adage “don’t talk about religion or politics around the diner table” comes to mind. It is an unfortunate truth that advocating for a cost on carbon remains incredibly contentious outside of environmental circles. Therefore wearing your advocacy on your sleeve can lead people to shutter themselves to what you have to say if you fail to approach the topic in the correct manner. People, as a general rule, do not like to be preached at, unless of course their biases lead them to already agree with what is being said. Nothing shuts a person down more than like feeling they are being blamed for something. Both of these are pitfalls that an environmentalist can fall into if they fail to bring environmentalism into a conversation organically.
Beyond Green, the ’24 Hours of Reality’ and similar events provide a unique opportunity for environmentalists to speak to their passion, without hitting the blame wall. These large-scale events draw environmentalists out of the woodwork, and draws attention to this aspect of their being. Conversations about weekend plans can become a chance to explain the plight of the world’s oceans or the concern behind two degrees of global warming. Or put more simply, the events provide a segue/opening to speak about environmental issues with those who may normally not be interested. The impact of just realizing that a good number of people you know care about these issues can often be enough to spark interest, so these chance conversations should not be understated in terms of their value. So if you are attending Beyond Green, or an event similar, talk to people about it! One of the more effective methods in the push for LGBTQ rights was one which simply encouraged people to come out to their friends, family and social circles. This was encouraged due to the fact that statistics showed that the probability you would support same-sex marriage skyrocketed if you even knew one person who identified themselves as gay. This is what the environmental movement needs. A chance to say, this is who I am and this is why I think this is important, in a completely non-judgmental fashion. Speaking about conferences and campaigns is an avenue to do just this.
So, if you are reading this before 5pm of Friday, October 24th, live near or in Toronto, and haven’t signed up for Beyond Green, definitely consider doing so by checking it out their website and buying your ticket here. In a brief space of self-promotion (It’s our blog, I can do what I want!), I feel I should mention that we here at the Green Society Campaign will be presenting at the Beyond Green Conference on Sunday at 11:30. Our workshop is titled “Good Media Changes Minds” and will focus on how to make environmental messaging the most effective that it can be. But there is an absolutely enormous number of presenters, workshops and speakers at the event so you can have an absolutely amazing and thought provoking time without ever having to see our faces as well.