The People’s Climate March: Edmonton Edition

I haven’t blogged for a long time, but it’s summer and I’m back at it.

This is the talk I gave for the People’s Climate March in Edmonton this spring.

And here is the transcript:

We NEED to talk about climate change! You all get that. By coming here today you’re showing that you know climate change is important. But what about the people who aren’t here? How can we engage them in this conversation? Because we MUST engage them in this conversation.

I teach Communications and we’re always going on about Audience and Purpose. It turns out, knowing your audience and your purpose matter. They matter just as much if you’re crafting a Press Release as if you’re talking to Uncle Jo at the Family Reunion.

If my purpose is to convince someone that climate change is important, if I want someone to reduce their carbon footprint, I need to know a bit about that person. What are their world views and values? If I’m talking to Uncle Jo, and I know that Jo thinks Donald Trump has great business acumen, I’m not going to start talking about polar bears. Because if I do, he’s going to think I’m a “left-wing wacko,” and that will be the end of that. But maybe I can mention how I’m thinking about installing solar panels because they’re going to add resale value to my house or because I don’t want to depend on a volatile energy market, and that might be my way of introducing the topic of climate change, and — hey — did you hear that we’re losing our outdoor rinks in Alberta?

And I still believe that leading by example is a powerful form of communication.

Not too long ago I moved to the North East End of the city. It’s the perfect house — well… the perfect price. I immediately felt buyer’s remorse. It was so far away from everything, especially MacEwan. Takes me almost half an hour to drive to work, and I hate the drive. But it seemed way too far to ride my bike. Yet every day my colleague, Marlene, would ride into the office. In the winter she’d come in a cloud of ice fog. Her cheeks glowing bright red. She’d take off her goggles, smile, and say, “A bit brisk out there today!” I’m watching this for months. So I’d say, “How’s traffic? What’s your route like?” She’d answer. She never tried to shame me. And one day, I thought, “Roberta, you’re being ridiculous. If Marlene can do this, so can you.” I figured out the best possible route. I got my gear together, and I did it. I found that I love riding my bike to work. Instead of spending 25 minutes frustrated with everyone around me. I spend 35 feeling on top of the world. Once again, I’m that 10-year-old girl on her bright yellow 5-speed racing bike, riding the mean streets of Camrose.

Let’s create a vision.

What if everyone in Edmonton rode a bike or took public transit — say — 3 times a week. How would that change our city? Let’s look at this from Uncle Jo’s perspective: It would reduce congestion. It would cut back on the wear and tear of our roads, so we’d save money. We’d save money on parking and gas too. We’d all be healthier. We’d end up with more walkable communities. And… we’d reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This brings me to my last point: We MUST create a positive vision for the future.

Because climate change can seem frightening, but just CHANGE can seem frightening too.

We need to show that mitigating climate change is good for all of us. We all benefit from reliable energy. We all benefit from healthier lifestyles. We all benefit from clean air and clean water.

So when you leave here today, please take the climate change message with you. Talk to Uncle Jo. Set an example for your colleagues. Let’s show everyone that positive change is possible.

Thank you.



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