Climate change books aren't usually what I'm drawn to, partly because I think the environmental movement has a PR issue. It comes off as too woke.
That means there are only two such books in my entire ridiculous library. But from the first time I picked up Rebecca Huntley's inclusive and thoughtful How To Talk About Climate Change in a Way That Makes Sense, I was so hooked that I've read it twice.
I was expecting to get growled at, or that the book would be overly emotional. Instead, the pragmatic Rebecca makes the really complex global issue of climate change accessible. Her mission was to talk about how we need to get prepared for when climate change really starts to bite in 10 or 15 years, and in her hands, it feels like a personal journey.
And turns out, it was a personal journey—being a mum to three young children—that was behind Rebecca's decision two years ago to devote her entire professional and private focus to climate change.
“I spent years getting them to brush their teeth and learn to swim and do their times tables and make sure I have enough savings to help them get a house," said Rebecca when she joined me on #Perspectives podcast No Planet B.
Then she realised she needed to prepare them for the future they face.
"I have a responsibility as a parent to do everything I can to ensure there is an actual viable world for these children with good teeth, who can swim and know how to do their times tables.”
A social researcher who has degrees in law and film, a PhD in gender studies and is an ABC broadcaster, Rebecca even flashed me the permanent motivation she carries on one hand. Recently done, the small tattoo of the initial S (all her kids' names start with it) is "a reminder that this is a fight I've got to stay in."
Right here and now, I'm sure some of you are slipping away, disengaging, thinking—like I have—that the environmental movement makes you feel as if you're part of the problem and being judged.
Greta Thunberg concerns you more than she inspires you. You think this summer might be much milder than last year's terrible Australian tinderbox heat. You carry a keep cup, you never use plastic water bottles, you recycle—surely you're doing your bit?
Put plainly, I think the messaging and marketing around climate change hasn't done its job. Where there is blame and shame, it’s not turning people onto wanting to be a part of it. Being yelled at is not the way to win my heart.
Norwegian psychologist and politician Per Espen Stoknes agrees. In 2016 he called climate change the "largest science communication failure in history" and two years ago wrote about the five psychological barriers to climate change.
“Absolutely," says Rebecca, who started her career in commercial and market research for financial institutions and is taking that skill and knowledge into the environmental movement.
Like Espen Stoknes, she says "the level of threat that climate change poses to everybody on the planet has been proven by science to the greatest degree. That being said, there’s something about the nature of climate change that makes it very different to a World War, an extreme weather event or a pandemic.”
Right now, amid COVID-19, there are daily triggers—hand sanitiser in shops, masks, infection rate bulletins—to remind us of the pandemic, as well as social cues and government rules around changing our behaviour.
"Communicating about climate change and the solutions to climate change is a massive marketing challenge. It’s not like selling someone a new Scotch Finger biscuit, it’s really tough: ‘I know I want the biscuit now but I don’t know why I want renewable energy now.’