Talking about complex issues requires breaking them down into manageable chunks. It’s all very well to announce that climate change is a problem, that our budget has been increased to $500 billion, or that oil is an unsustainable fuel source, but to generate understanding we need to be able to connect big statements to our own lives.
Understanding comes when people can reframe generic terms into a more localised, personal, reality. Particularly, as fairly conclusive research exists to show that emotions play a large part of our decision making process. In fact, existent partisan beliefs can lead us to reject information – even when it is in the indisputable form of hard data.
One answer might lie with public forums, and giving more information to communities.
Community engagement is a significant tool in creating change. The creation of a dialogue between different people, and having conversations around significant issues might be a way to bring them closer to home.
There’s a rather inspiring set of links here that explain a variety of different engagement projects in Africa conducted by the AAP (the African Adaption Programme). The AAP has tailored their methods to each area, in doing so they recognise the complexity of the diverse culture and countries. The work also targets highly relevant information about how climate change will affect those areas and what the communities could specifically do to minimise those effects.
Academic research reinforces the value of this approach. Findings show that three areas should be given the greatest focus.
1. Increased attention to local adaptation;
2. The linking of adaptation and mitigation efforts together and with other local ecological concerns;
3. And greater engagement with active community members and grassroots community-initiated climate change actions.
The report states that ‘these three key aspects could give climate change a local saliency and tangibility, spur more effective action, build community resilience and reduce vulnerability’.
And, let’s face it, local government/community work can be just as, if not more, efficient than waiting around for federal/state government action. Consider this great grassroots campaign for the seat of Indi in Victoria, Australia. A small Independent candidate (Cathy McGowan) was able to swing the vote her way after locals perceived her work to be efficient, and more in touch with their local communities.