When was the last time you had a meaningful conversation about climate change with a friend or family member?

If your answer is “uhhhhh,” you’re far from alone.

A recent study from the Yale Program on Climate Communication found that about two-thirds of Americans say they “rarely” or never” discuss climate change in their social circles. That’s despite the fact that about two-thirds of Americans say that the issue is important to them personally.

But maybe the stats aren’t entirely surprising. After all, climate conversations can mean grappling with complex science, deep political divisions, social inequalities and feelings of personal responsibility — not to mention the anxiety and dread inspired by an intractable global problem.

Today, we explore how different people and communities around the D.C. region approach opening up conversations about climate change.

The Kojo Nnamdi Show is providing special coverage on climate issues this week as part of Covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of 250 news outlets designed to strengthen coverage of the climate story.

Produced by Margaret Barthel

Guests

  • Rev. Dr. Robert Hardies Senior Minister, All Souls Unitarian; @AllSoulsUUDC
  • Natalia Lewis 7th Grade Student
  • Nora Kelly Camp Director, Audubon Naturalist Society; @ANStweets
  • Kristin Bianchi Clinical Psychologist, Center for Anxiety and Behavioral Change; @bianchikristin

Transcript

  • 12:00:18

    KOJO NNAMDIYou're tuned in to The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU 88.5. Welcome. This week we're participating in covering Climate Now, a global collaboration of 250 media organizations focused on telling the climate story better. Today we're talking about the discourse on climate change literally. About two-thirds of Americans report that they rarely or never talk about climate change with their family and friends, even though two-thirds also say that climate change is personally important to them.

  • 12:00:49

    KOJO NNAMDIWhy might climate science be producing, well, climate silence? And how are local people and communities trying to cross this communication gap? Joining me in studio is Reverend Rob Hardies. He is the Senior Minister at All Souls Unitarian Church here in Washington. Rob Hardies, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:01:07

    ROBERT HARDIESThank you, Kojo.

  • 12:01:08

    NNAMDIAlso with us is Kristin Bianchi. She is a Clinical Psychologist at the Center for Anxiety and Behavioral Change. Kristin Bianchi, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:01:16

    KRISTIN BIANCHIThank you for having me.

  • 12:01:17

    NNAMDINora Kelly is the Camp Director at the Audubon Naturalist Society. Nora Kelly, good to see you.

  • 12:01:22

    NORA KELLYThank you for having me.

  • 12:01:23

    NNAMDIAnd Natalia Lewis is a 7th Grade Student who has attended Audubon Naturalist Society camps. Natalia, thank you for joining us.

  • 12:01:31

    NATALIA LEWISThank you for having me.

  • 12:01:32

    NNAMDII just cited the statistic that about two-thirds of Americans rarely or never talk to their friends and families about climate change even though roughly the same percentage feel that the issue is personal to them. Let's hear your initial reactions to that. I'll start with you, Kris.

  • 12:01:49

    BIANCHISure. Well, I think there are a number of reasons why people avoid the topic. I think in part it's so ethically and morally fraught that people are afraid to weigh in front of others one way or another less they be judged negatively. I think it's also a depressing topic if we're going to be honest, and we are talking about potentially catastrophic consequences. So it makes for heavy discussion over something like lunch or drinks.

  • 12:02:19

    NNAMDIHow about your, Rob?

  • 12:02:20

    HARDIESWell, you know, I find that we're sometimes good on this conversation and sometimes not so good. So folks at All Souls are activists and we're really comfortable talking about climate change as a moral crisis. And what I found is that we're a little more hesitant to talk about the kind of profound spiritual questions that come up for people in the face of the climate crisis. And that's where we've had to kind of probe a little bit more and push a little bit more.

  • 12:02:51

    NNAMDINatalia.

  • 12:02:52

    LEWISWell, I think that it's really hard to talk about climate change if you don't know a lot about it, because you should worry that you'd say the wrong thing. Also, it's such big a topic that you don't know where to start. So that might be hard.

  • 12:03:06

    NNAMDIHow about you, Nora?

  • 12:03:07

    KELLYWell, going to what Natalia said and how to start the topic, it can be as simple as going outdoors. And we work with children and we simply ask them in an outdoor setting what they know about climate change. And let them start the conversation and see what knowledge base they have and then going there it doesn't have to be a big scary intellectual conversation.

  • 12:03:32

    NNAMDIKris, the American Psychological Association released a report in 2017 called "Mental Health and Our Changing Climate." It details the possible psychological effects that climate could have on individuals in communities, things like trauma and shock, PTSD, anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and stress. As a practicing therapist have you been seeing some of these effects?

  • 12:03:53

    BIANCHISo, yes I have. And this comes out in different ways across the lifespan. But I think if we're going to look at it from a broad based angle where I see it most is in something that we call learned helplessness, which is this perception of not being able to do anything to affect changes. So it's this idea that you may be taking action, but it doesn't matter, coupled with something that we call looming vulnerability. So again it's this perception of dangerous outcomes threats, coupled with a perception of an inability to cope with those outcomes. And so we see that manifest and feel depression, anxiety. Certainly it can play a role in trauma and how one experiences events like natural disasters and other types of catastrophes.

  • 12:04:50

    NNAMDIThat's across all age demographics categories. How about your older patients?

  • 12:04:55

    BIANCHIA good number. So in the younger cliental we'll see more things like phobias and ongoing worry about negative outcomes, befalling loved ones, befalling themselves. In adults we see it manifest at least I do more so in concern for their children, concern about health outcomes either an immediate way or a long term way. So I see a lot of concern about contagion and pollutants, and a lot of behavior to prevent those sorts of outcomes.

  • 12:05:36

    NNAMDIHave patients been coming to you with climate change related concerns? Maybe what some people are starting to refer to as eco-anxiety more and more over the last few years?

  • 12:05:46

    BIANCHII wouldn't say that I've seen eco-anxiety bring too many patients in the door. Where I see it manifesting quite a lot is in obsessive compulsive disorder, and rooted often in, again, this fear of negative health outcomes, illness that are generated by the environment by the effects of climate change, and so often that's a more indirect way that it ends up in my office being addressed. So that's the trend I've seen.

  • 12:06:21

    NNAMDIRob, we often tend to think of climate change as a scientific or a policy issue. In your faith community, why is it also a religious one?

  • 12:06:30

    HARDIESYeah. I think climate change presses a lot of folks' spiritual buttons if you will. One of the things I find is that folks at church are willing to talk about climate change as an issue, but when we go and try to talk about folks' grief around climate change and the grief that they're feeling they're kind of afraid to approach that question. They're afraid if they kind of pull on that grief it's going to unravel and they're going to kind of fall into this kind of -- this despair. And so what we've been trying to do give spaces for people to kind of talk about their grief about what's happening to the planet. And so a couple of weeks ago I was preaching about climate change and in the middle of my sermon I just stopped preaching. And I invited folks to turn to each other in the pews.

  • 12:07:21

    HARDIESAnd I said, Turn to your neighbor and just look at them and complete this sentence. And I said, "Complete this sentence, when I see what's happening to the Earth, what breaks my heart is -- and repeat that sentence over and over again. And people started doing that. And they started crying. And tapping into their grief, but they were also held in their grief. And we found that if we grieve together, we don't have to -- that grief doesn't have to lead us to despair. It can also lead us to compassion instead.

  • 12:07:54

    NNAMDIYou actually preached a sermon about the spiritual dimensions of climate change. Tell us more about that.

  • 12:07:59

    HARDIESWell, it was called, "The End of the World as We Know It." I borrowed the title from and old R.E.M. song. And I was trying to, you know, invite folks to think about -- you know, in religious thinking we have a tradition of thinking about the Apocalypse, right. And now in a very real way we're confronting the Apocalypse. But one of the things we know about the history of religion is that when we start talking about Apocalypse people can go very quickly to a place of kind of resignation and despair and the sense that there's no hope. And so I tried to kind of playfully pushback against that idea of Apocalypse. It might be the end of the world as we know it, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's the end of the world. And so how can we find some hope here?

  • 12:08:51

    NNAMDIHere is Lisa in Mason Neck, Virginia. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:08:53

    LISAHi, Kojo. I just wanted to say that I think a big problem is that people don't spend enough time outdoors anymore. And my family -- I work outside every day. I'm an animal trainer. My husband works outside building houses. My girls are 13 and 18. They're going to be at the climate march on Friday. And it's just the little things of climate change that hurt me so much about just the Mayflies. They don't come at the same time that the mother birds need them anymore. They come a little bit later, a little bit earlier. So the mother birds don't have anything to feed the baby birds and the little pieces of harmonious living that are being broken up by the world overheating and the way it is. It's hurtful. It's hurtful. And sometimes I feel so much despair about it I just don't know what to do. So I'm listening to your show for any advice.

  • 12:09:41

    NNAMDII'm glad you raised that issue, because I think Bill in Annandale, Virginia wants to talk about the despair aspect of it. Bill, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:09:51

    BILLFirst question is I've always wondered if these kids are just -- I think they're just having unreasonable fears of what's going to be happening in the future. And I always wondered if it's a form of child abuse and number two I was wondering if --

  • 12:10:05

    NNAMDIYou're wondering if what was a form of child abuse?

  • 12:10:07

    BILLPutting fears in these poor kids' heads.

  • 12:10:11

    NNAMDISo you're saying, you're suggesting --

  • 12:10:12

    BILLThe world has got to end.

  • 12:10:14

    NNAMDIAre you suggesting -- are you suggesting that talking to kids about climate change is unnecessary?

  • 12:10:21

    BILLOh, no, no, no. That's the vital. But to the point where they can't -- where it seems that they have an emotional response to it where they can't sleep. They can't go to school.

  • 12:10:31

    NNAMDIOkay.

  • 12:10:32

    BILLThey have their -- they've having nightmares, fears. It's like come on, guys. Let's not use these kids for your own purposes.

  • 12:10:39

    NNAMDIOkay. Thank you very much for your call. Before we go to break, Kris, there are people who say that we should be terrified about climate change. All these negative emotions are actually what could motivate us to action. How do you respond to that?

  • 12:10:55

    BIANCHISo yes, fear is absolutely an appropriate response to what is happening. However with that we want to stress a resilience model. So this idea that, yes, we are afraid, but there are also steps that we can take together, and just as Rob said that when we join together that in part helps to dispel our fear and then we can work towards super ordinate goals to take action.

  • 12:11:29

    NNAMDISo we may be afraid, but we are also resilient. We've got to take a short break. When we come back, we will continue this conversation about talking about climate change. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:12:24

    NNAMDIWelcome back. We're talking about talking about climate change with Reverend Bob Hardies. He's the Senior Minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in D.C. Kristin Bianchi is a Clinical Psychologist at the Center for Anxiety and Behavioral Change. Nora Kelly is the Camp Director at the Audubon Naturalist Society. And Natalia Lewis is a 7th Grade Student who has attended Audubon Naturalist Society camps. Natalia, we've been talking about feelings of grief and sadness about what's happening to the Earth. And lately we've heard a lot of frustration too from some of your high school counterparts, who have become climate activists. What kinds of emotions go through your head when you think about climate change?

  • 12:13:01

    LEWISWell, I feel really confused, because I wonder how can we be doing this and most people not even try to stop it. Like when you have the option to bike, you still just go in your car. And I also feel a lot of anger, because so many people just aren't doing anything about it. And aren't teaching people about it and really just don't care or if they do they just aren't even trying to even change their lives a bit to try to help.

  • 12:13:37

    NNAMDIYou might be able to answer this question from Greg on Capitol Hill. Greg, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:13:44

    GREGHi, Kojo. I have grandchildren, who are between 7 and 13 years old, and I'm wondering if your guests are seeing anxiety in young people of that age and how we should address that?

  • 12:14:01

    NNAMDII'd like Natalia to answer, because she is between 7 and 13 years old.

  • 12:14:06

    LEWISSo I feel like the best way to talk about it is point out the bad things that are happening and explain why it's happening and what causes it and what is affected by that and how you can stop it because there is really no point of knowing what's happening if you really can't stop it. And just feel all that grief and yet can't do anything about it -- or think you can't do anything about it.

  • 12:14:33

    NNAMDISpeaking of that anxiety, the television show "Big Little Lies" dealt with children's anxieties around climate change. In one episode the daughter of one of the main characters gets so anxious in school during a lesson about climate change that she hides in a closet and faints. Her mother has some choice words for the principal and the teacher. Let's hear a short clip.

  • 12:14:54

    LAURA DERN AS RENATAWhat possesses two idiots like yourselves to teach eight year olds that the planet is doomed?

  • 12:14:59

    ACTOR 1The children are constantly bombarded with climate change. It is all over the news.

  • 12:15:03

    ACTOR 2It's our job to deconstruct it so that they can process it.

  • 12:15:07

    RENATAGood for you. You deconstructed my little girl into a coma.

  • 12:15:10

    1Renata, look. We scheduled an assembly for this evening. Okay, you are not the only parent complaining, just by far the loudest.

  • 12:15:17

    NNAMDINora Kelly, as you teach climate change concepts in the camp sessions that you run, do you notice your campers having emotional responses to this issue?

  • 12:15:25

    KELLYYes, absolutely, and we believe it's our responsibility to address these fears and help children understand that nature is not something to fear. That they are a part of nature. They're part of this world, and by taking them outdoors, teaching them to embrace the environment. And by getting them connected to nature, they're able to feel more empowered, feel like they do have resources and solutions that they can do to make a difference in the world and be environmental stewards.

  • 12:16:07

    NNAMDIDo you think about whether or not talking about climate change is age appropriate for your campers and do you adjust your approach to explaining the effects of climate change to different age groups of kids?

  • 12:16:19

    KELLYWe will adjust based on ages. The main thing we do is starting out with asking the children what they know about climate change and then figuring out what their emotions are from there and making sure that we're not talking about how the planet is -- you know, that this is a big catastrophe and all of the negative sides. We want to talk about it from a place that empowers the children and helps them come up with their own solutions to these issues.

  • 12:16:57

    NNAMDINatalia, what was your reaction to that clip? Hearing that parent berate the principal and the teacher?

  • 12:17:02

    LEWISI feel like it's not really good to start off talking about climate change about how it will totally ruin the Earth and the Earth will just totally die and you will with it. But I feel like you should start with talking about just smaller things or ways you can help or just like things around you that may be changed by it. Not necessarily huge things like the whole entire Earth all at once, but just like the birds in your yard, they may not have enough food to eat, because it's warming and the bugs are going different places at different times, just small things like that.

  • 12:17:49

    NNAMDIDo you remember the first time you heard about climate change?

  • 12:17:53

    LEWISWell, I don't remember it, because my parents are both marine biologists. And so...

  • 12:18:00

    NNAMDI(overlapping) So, you've been hearing about it from...

  • 12:18:01

    LEWISI've been hearing about it my whole life. (laugh) And so I don't really remember the first time. I've just always remembered seeing small changes and wondering why it's happening, and asking my parents, and them telling me just straight on, because they feel like you should know what's going on.

  • 12:18:22

    NNAMDII suspect the first time you heard about it, you probably went, just wait until I can talk. (laugh)

  • 12:18:26

    LEWISExactly. (laugh)

  • 12:18:28

    NNAMDIHere now is Jacob, in Baltimore. Jacob, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:18:33

    JACOBHi. Thanks for taking my call. I was just calling, and my sort of personal experience in talking about this is kind of feeling a sense of resignation. And, you know, we're faced with this almost too-huge problem. And for most people, in our daily lives, we can't operate if we really thought about it in the terms that it is actually going to affect us, and is affecting us right now. So, I'm wondering how to be maybe a little bit more optimistic about it, or what you would say about, you know, we're trying to enact big changes and culturally shift. But, at the same time, they're still searching for new oil fields and, you know, things are not getting better. So, thank you.

  • 12:19:16

    NNAMDIThank you very much. We got an email from James, who says, as a therapist among young clients ages 11 through 17, it's an often-cited issue, an existential threat is how a number of them describe it. Kris, with some of your patients, you've noticed that emotional responses to climate change can actually provoke feelings of mistrust of other people or of institutions. Can you explain that?

  • 12:19:38

    BIANCHIYes, absolutely. So often, people struggle to understand the meaning behind mass agriculture and large corporations, why these actions are being taken and condoned by large corporations. And how can people work for these corporations, and how can so many people be seemingly indifferent to it? So, it's not just the effects, the sequela of climate change, but rather the meaning behind the mechanisms for it that can then create a certain cynicism and mistrust in the human condition.

  • 12:20:24

    NNAMDIRob, after your sermon, how did your congregation respond? What kinds of feelings did they express, and do you think it brought your community closer together?

  • 12:20:33

    HARDIESI think it did, Kojo. I mean, I think part of what is really hard with this -- and I think the caller Jacob was speaking to this -- is if we feel like we're facing this climate challenge alone, it can feel overwhelming. And it's easy to succumb to despair. If I could give folks, you know, one piece of advice, it would be, you know, do this work together in community with other people. Don't do it alone. Don't face this challenge by yourself.

  • 12:21:03

    HARDIESYou know, start where you are and do what you can. Act locally to take on just kind of small pieces of the climate crisis. Here in D.C. there's so many ways to, you know, work on cleaning up the Anacostia watershed and taking a walk in Rock Creek Park. There's so many ways to get involved. And what I find is that people who are engaged and active feel less despair.

  • 12:21:31

    NNAMDIPresumably, that's the advice you have been giving to members of your congregation, but you have talked about gratitude, in this context. That's not a word that many people associate with climate change. Why do you think it's important?

  • 12:21:43

    HARDIESI think getting in touch with our gratitude for the Earth is important. My feeling is that we will not work to save something that we don't love. And if we don't get in touch with our love and gratitude for the Earth and for creatures and for peoples, then we're not going to have the strength and a well to draw on to actually help save the Earth. And so we work on cultivating folks' gratitude for the Earth.

  • 12:22:15

    HARDIESAnd that's sometimes a problem in religious discourse, because sometimes religious discourse privileges the next world over this world, right. And the unintended consequence of that can be a devaluation of this world and the paradise that we can find here on Earth. And so that's a particular danger in religious communities, I think.

  • 12:22:40

    NNAMDIHere now, I think, is Dr. Burgess, on the line. Dr. Burgess, you're on the air. We only have about a minute left in this segment, but go ahead, please.

  • 12:22:47

    DR. BURGESSSure. Yeah, I'm a child psychologist in Maryland. And the main point of your show is how and whether to talk about climate change, but we have to talk to our kids about it, as it's happening all around us, anyway. This week, in particular, there's been a mass amount of media coverage, as you know, with our children seeing it.

  • 12:23:07

    DR. BURGESSFor example, on the Today Show they had graphic images of what will happen in their futures, like America's most iconic landmarks being threatened, Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument partly submerged in water.

  • 12:23:19

    NNAMDIHow do you help children to cope with that, in the 25 seconds we have left?

  • 12:23:26

    BURGESSYeah well, these striking visuals have an impact on our kids, so one of the best ways to help them cope is to talk about it, and to come up with ways that our kids can feel like they're taking action, and then take action in the ways that make sense for their age. I think that that would be very empowering for kids to feel like they're part of the solution, instead of that it's just happening and they have no control over it.

  • 12:23:54

    NNAMDIThank you so much for your comment, Dr. Burgess. We've got to take a short break. We'll come back to this conversation about talking about climate change, after that. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

  • 12:24:14

    NNAMDIWelcome back. We're discussing how and whether we talk about climate change with Natalia Lewis. She's a 7th grade student who has attended the Audubon Naturalist Society camps. Nora Kelly is the camp director at the Audubon Naturalist Society. Kristin Bianchi is a clinical psychologist at the Center for Anxiety and Behavioral Change. And Reverend Rob Hardies is the senior minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in D.C. And when we took that break, Rob was talking about gratitude. And that's what Jim in Sterling, Virginia wants to talk about. Jim, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:24:44

    JIMYeah, thanks for having me, Kojo. Your guest who is the minister, I think, is right on when he talks about gratitude, and because of the love of Earth, being willing to work for it. But I think a second big part, if you will, is hope. Right now we've got a horrible administration, the Trump Administration that is openly against any concerns for climate change. And that just gives all of us who care and who are citizens of this country and this world, a much harder way to go.

  • 12:25:17

    JIMWhen we get rid of him, I hope very soon, meaning we still got to wait until November, 2020, it's going to feel a whole lot easier to breathe, because we'll have a government on our side again instead of a government who's president is working to hold back all of the advances we were making. Thanks.

  • 12:25:36

    NNAMDIThank you very much for your call. And you have expressed your hope very clearly, so I'd like to get back to the issue of gratitude again. Kris, does Rob's idea about gratitude for the Earth resonate with you?

  • 12:25:46

    BIANCHICertainly. I think, you know, research does show that expressing gratitude, experiencing it is beneficial for our mood, is beneficial for human connection. And so certainly starting there, being able to recognize not only gratitude in the Earth itself, but gratitude for one another, because that's the way that we can ultimately come together, at the risk of sounding too cheesy. But, really, there are always qualities for which we can be grateful in other people. And we can strive to see the positive.

  • 12:26:22

    NNAMDINora Kelly, one of the more important goals of the Audubon Naturalist Society's camp program is getting kids outside and connected to nature, and maybe even grateful for it. What kinds of activities are you doing with campers to accomplish that?

  • 12:26:35

    KELLYSo, we're able to teach firsthand about climate change on our 40-acre nature sanctuary in Chevy Chase. And, for example, this summer, we had a lot of large thunderstorms that caused a lot of extreme flooding in the area. And we were, the next day, able to take our campers out and show them our two rain gardens on property and show them, hands-on, how we're mitigating storm water runoff through those rain gardens. And even talk to them about how, at home, they could install -- with the help of their parents -- rain gardens at home, and simple actions like that that they can take.

  • 12:27:15

    KELLYAnother example is our garbology program, which works with D.C. schools in teaching about reducing recycling and composting with students. And again, we're not just going into the classroom, having an intellectual conversation about this is how you compost, this is why it's important. We're actually taking those students to our compost facility, to see firsthand how that whole process works. And we're again empowering them by connecting them with their waste management services at school, so that they can start a recycling program or create a better recycling program at their school.

  • 12:27:55

    NNAMDINatalia, what are some of your favorite things that you've learned or done at camp?

  • 12:28:01

    LEWISWell, I love learning about the animals there, and how they build their habitats and adjust to their environments, even if they have invasive species that they don't know how to deal with either plants or animals. And I love the field trips that we go on, like going to a compost facility and learning how it works and why we do it, and going to a place that teaches us about birds. And some of them, like they -- a bird got hit by a car in the intersection. And so we're learning about how -- to make sure that doesn't happen, and to make sure that we are keeping our animals and plants, wherever we are, safe.

  • 12:28:50

    NNAMDIDo you think that this has depended your sense of connection to nature?

  • 12:28:55

    LEWISIt certainly has. Once I know how things work, I feel like it should be protected more, because it has so much complexity, and it's so hard to make. And so I think that it's really important to protect, if you know what you're protecting and why.

  • 12:29:18

    NNAMDIDoes your connection to nature excite you?

  • 12:29:21

    LEWISYes. (laugh)

  • 12:29:24

    NNAMDIA private joke we've been having in our conversation about how Natalia just loves the notion of excitement. (laugh) Nora, once you've helped kids be in and part of nature, isn't it a bit wrenching to have to explain to them that climate change is really having a damaging effect on the places they've come to love?

  • 12:29:40

    KELLYIt's not. Most of the children we work with already know that, and they come into our programs with that knowledge of climate change. And what we're trying to teach is that there are things that they can do. They're not powerless, kind of trying to fight that hopelessness, that despair by teaching them small actions that might seem like they're not going to make a difference. But when you think about how many people are on this planet, if everybody is putting in rain gardens, everybody is recycling and composting, that they're empowered to make those differences in their life.

  • 12:30:23

    NNAMDIWe got an email from Juanita, who emails to recommend the book "Draw Down." She says, this is not about each of us deciding we each are not doing enough in our homes. There are much larger and scalable solutions in place which we, humans working together, need to champion and speak about the positive programs. Thank you for sharing that with us, Juanita. On, now, to Melissa in Greenbelt, Maryland. Melissa, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.

  • 12:30:49

    MELISSAThank you, Kojo. I really appreciate you having this topic, and I think that's a wonderful thing that you're doing, to spread the knowledge that it's not -- the learned helplessness is not the only thing that we have. So, the other thing I wanted to mention was that, as a Christian, we do have a responsibility to take care of the Earth. I'm going to be enrolling in this great course called Contemplation and Care for Creation that's offered through Sewanee Theological Seminary at the University of the South.

  • 12:31:24

    MELISSAAnd I already practice gratitude every day in contemplation of nature. And that's part of what helps me go forward when I'm faced with the despair at looking around and seeing how so many systems are arrayed against our natural environment.

  • 12:31:39

    NNAMDIMelissa, thank you very much for sharing that with us. And here's Omar, in Ashburn. Omar, your turn.

  • 12:31:46

    OMARHey, thanks, Kojo. So, my son's anxiety about the environment is centered, really, around his asthma, and the fact that the first thing he has to do every morning is ask Alexa what the weather is going to be like today. Because he knows that whether it's a code orange or a code red day, that will affect his ability to play outside. And he has quite a bit of anxiety, just around that. So, I have to constantly talk to him about, you know, how the environment is directly responsible for affecting his health, rather than conversations about, say, polar bears in the North Pole.

  • 12:32:20

    NNAMDIThank you very much. Kris, we've established that talking about climate change can be an emotional minefield. You're a therapist, and so you spend a lot of time figuring out how to open up space for these kinds of difficult conversation. What are some things that you've learned to do that might apply to, let's say, holding a family dinner table conversation about climate change?

  • 12:32:39

    BIANCHISure. So, you know, we recommend against leading off with, so, how does everybody feel about climate change (laugh) and this melting planet? But rather to start smaller, to discuss something that perhaps everybody has in common. And we can always find something, even if it's something that's immediate in the environment. So, the weather, for example, that might be a great entre on to climate change, commenting on something that has recently happened in the news and just asking open-ended questions. How do you feel about that? Gosh, I can't believe that happened again. Being vulnerable, and not being afraid to express how you feel.

  • 12:33:27

    BIANCHIAnd then, lastly, you know again, if we're looking for something immediately in the environment, it may not start out weighty. You could make a comment about the fact that there are fewer straws, (laugh) you know, something seemingly...

  • 12:33:40

    NNAMDI(overlapping) Something more mundane.

  • 12:33:40

    BIANCHIYes, absolutely.

  • 12:33:42

    NNAMDI(overlapping) I only interrupt because we only have about two minutes left. Nora, one of the issues that's been coming up more and more frequently is what kinds of language we use to describe climate change. Some people would say that we should be using more intense language, like crisis, catastrophe, to indicate the scale of the problem. Other people think that could just generate hopelessness. As a science educator, what's your take?

  • 12:34:02

    KELLYWith children at the Audubon Naturalist Society, we simply use the term climate change. With children, that's a term they're hearing in the news. They know it. They understand it. And, again, we're not trying to create a feeling of hopelessness. And so, we want to talk about the environment from a place of empowerment and a place that allows children to see possibilities and solutions that, honestly, as adults, we might not think of in giving children that opportunity to realize that they also have a voice and a say in what's happening.

  • 12:34:39

    NNAMDIIn the 30 seconds or so we have left, Rob, when you're writing sermons about climate change, what kinds of language do you choose, and why?

  • 12:34:45

    HARDIESWhat I really want to do is help folks get in touch with -- we talked about both their grief around what's happening around climate change, their gratitude, but also move them to a place of hope. And I think that hopefulness comes from being together in community, and from acting locally and doing what you can, and starting from there.

  • 12:35:13

    NNAMDIReverend Rob Hardies, Kristin Bianchi, Nora Kelly, Natalia Lewis, thank you all for joining us. Today's show was produced by Margaret Barthel. Coming up tomorrow on the Politics Hour, Montgomery County Councilmember Tom Hucker joins us to talk about the county's emergency climate town hall and new bills addressing youth vaping. We'll also be talking with Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly about the House Oversight Committee hearing on D.C. statehood. That all starts tomorrow, at noon. Until then, thank you for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.

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