This guide was produced for our Autumn quarterly newsletter, offering free resources to support conversations about climate and ecology in the lead-up to COP15 on Biodiversity in October, and COP26 on Climate in Glasgow in November.
These resources were released in time for Great Big Green Week, Climate Fringe Week, and also the Global Climate Strike on 24th September. These follow on from two weeks of Extinction Rebellion’s Impossible Revolution in August and a summer of extreme weather (see our collecting project of extreme weather stories).
Dig in for ideas that we have tried and used with our own communities.
Ideas for Creative Climate Conversations
“The reason why, I think, we have a pervasive environmental melancholia is directly related to the fact that we’re not really talking about this.” Dr Renee Lertzman
You may want to think about the setting and experience. We’ve found that conversations on this topic can sometimes fall flat or go into awkward places, so we try to create ease or connection with activities like games, handling objects or making objects with clay. See above images from our Wild Museum activity (animal curators show collections about our extractive past, and participants make regenerative objects from clay), and a workshop using found objects to explore climate narratives.
If you’d like to organise a live activity with one of our creative facilitators, get in touch on email@example.com. If you’re in Lewisham, we still have capacity to offer 2 workshops for school, youth and community groups to have Creative Climate Conversations.
Or, simply set up a conversation experience yourself, whether with groups or individuals, in an organised or more casual way, with strangers or friends. Below are some ideas you could use. Please remember to credit Climate Museum UK if you use them in a public setting.
1 – Words and Terms
The term ‘Earth crisis’ is used here as shorthand for the climate and ecological emergency. In CMUK, we don’t generally talk about climate in isolation from environmental damage caused, for example, by deforestation or pollution. This damage worsens the impacts of climate breakdown, and in turn, ecosystems are seriously harmed by climate impacts.
You could start a conversation by asking: when I say Earth crisis, what does it mean for you? What terms do you use and what do they mean for you?
Did you find that talking abstractly about words helped people feel comfortable? Maybe from here you can move on to more emotional questions.
2 – Facing the Crisis
One of our activities is to invite participants to make an artwork or piece of writing to think about the Earth crisis as a whole, to help them visualise and face it.
You could work with people by asking them: How do you picture the Earth crisis?
Talk them through this: Start with visualising: Is it outside of you, or inside of you? How big is it? Is it solid, or not? Is it textured? What sound(s) does it make? Is there a smell, or smells? What feelings does it bring about in your body? Now you’ve explored these sensory prompts, you could try to put it into an image or words.
The drawings or descriptions can then be shared to a group or swapped in pairs to reflect on different ways of seeing the crisis.
To prepare or follow up for this activity, you could learn more about the psychological mechanisms people use to cope with the Earth crisis. See our work on Climate Coping Strategies here.
3 – Greenhushing
You might have heard the phrase ‘greenwashing’, about marketing spin to make organisations seem more sustainable. But there’s also ‘greenhushing’, keeping quiet about the Earth crisis, including your positive efforts to tackle it, because the subject is not acceptable or relevant.
Invite people to open up by asking: What do you hush up? When and why does that happen? If you could speak proudly about it, what would you say?
If you’re doing this in a group activity, you could also invite people to sing or use a drum, to make noise as part of an attempt to stop the hush.
4 – Exploring Tipping Points
The old assumptions that climate tipping points are a long way off are beginning to look unsafe. This is a really difficult, frightening aspect of climate breakdown so we don’t often talk about it. But, it should be part of conversations, particularly when we’re talking about organisational action plans, risk assessments and climate justice policies. It has not been talked about enough as part of the global climate talks, so citizens need to be better informed and raise questions. See our blogpost ‘We Need to Talk About Tipping Points’, now 2 years old, and George Monbiot’s opinion piece, September 2021. You can find here lots of resources to help you understand and explain the Climate Basics.
Invite people (who you think are suitably prepared or mature) to talk about it by asking: what do you know about climate tipping points? What have you heard people say about them? What does it make you feel when you learn more about this situation?
5 – Going Deeper
Some people will respond to more philosophical or soulful questions, such as:
- What are you willing to give up?
- What is your unique contribution to this situation?
- What would you say to your grandchild or two generations into the future, if you traveled forward in time?
- Do you think the emotion of shame has a place in dealing with this crisis?
The next activity helps you go deeper with a group…
6 – Common Ground
This toolkit that you can download from here works well for an in-depth course or group session long enough for a proper conversation. It helps people find common ground across areas of debate that have become polarised.
In designing activities exploring Common Ground, or where you are reaching out to engage people with different perspectives, you may want to prepare by looking at resources by Climate Outreach, such as their guide on engaging different audiences around COP26, or from the Common Cause Foundation on people’s values and frames.
These last three prompts offer topics for conversation that move quickly into solutions:
7 – Talking about Sustainable Development Goals
See our resource on understanding the SDGs, or Global Goals, including some activities for exploring them with other people. The SDGs offer structure for collaboration between sectors, governments and citizens, giving a sense of active hope.
Invite people to talk about them by asking: which Global Goal do you feel most drawn to? If this Goal is reached, what positive transformation do you imagine? What one thing can you do to support it?
8 – Working with Biodiversity
We’re members of the #UnitedforBiodiversity coalition, through which we’ve pledged to engage our communities in conversations about the ecological emergency. Framing solutions as restoring the biosphere can offer the most sustainable and just approaches to change.
Invite people to talk about: What ideas come to mind if we think like a river? How can we be more beaver? What if we were like ants? What if our organisation was a forest?
9 – What can Arts and Culture do?
Invite people to talk about how creativity inspires them, and examples of how Cultural activity creates change in our culture. They might have stories and artworks to share about their creative activism, or about how a cultural organisation is making a sustainable transformation. See the 8 pathways to action in our Culture Takes Action framework.
You could also start a conversation around an artwork, such as Beuys’ Acorns by Ackroyd & Harvey, or any of these 100s of examples here. See their project with Writers Rebel, Paint the Land, that invites you to write powerful statements on the ground that can be photographed from above.
Finally, a few Climate Conversation resources from friends and other organisations here:
- The Talk Climate Change challenge, which aims to record 26,000 conversations on climate before COP26. If you want to take part, you can find information and prompts for climate conversations on the project website here.
- Great resources from Letters to the Earth on how to run a creative session in response to climate change.
- Reboot the Conversation offers 3 short videos to kickstart climate conversations
- Glasgow Science Centre has produced five Climate Conversations podcasts
Climate Museum UK is sharing these resources to help generate awareness through creative climate conversations in the run-up to COP15 and COP26. Click this link to sign up to our quarterly newsletters and get further opportunities, resources and news straight into your inbox.