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Why We Need Humane Education: People Are Reluctant to Talk About Climate Change

Written by Marsha Rakestraw | No Comments | Published on October 17, 2016 | Filed under Humane Connection
The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Humane Education website at http://humaneeducation.org/blog/2016/10/17/humane-education-people-reluctant-talk-climate-change/
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people on broken ice floes

by Marsha Rakestraw

A new study by Yale University and George Mason University reveals that while a majority of Americans are concerned about the climate crisis, few of them are talking (or hearing) about it.

One theory why: there’s a climate change “spiral of silence.”

According to the study:

  • 67% of Americans are very or moderately interested in global warming.
  • Fewer than half of Americans say they hear global climate change discussed in the media once a month or more.
  • 24% of Americans “never” hear people they know talk about global warming, and fewer than one in five heard people they know talk about it at least once a month.
  • 70% of Americans “rarely or never” talk about global warming with family and friends.

As a Popular Science reporter notes about the study results: “No one talks, so no one feels comfortable talking. Silence begets silence begets silence, widening the gap between popular discourse and public opinion, in an ever-descending spiral.”

The “spiral of silence” term was coined by German political scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann in 1974. The term refers to people’s tendency to remain silent when they think their views are different from that of the majority, and thus they might be rejected by friends or family or experience other negative consequences for speaking up.

We humans aren’t always successful at talking about the tough topics, but the world is going to continue to feel the effects of climate change, whether we talk about it or not.

There’s a lot we can do as humane educators, including:

  • educate ourselves and others about climate change issues;
  • improve our knowledge and skills about how to talk about climate change;
  • serve as role models by talking about climate challenges and climate action whenever appropriate;
  • engage with campaigns and organizations working on climate action issues;
  • make changes in our own lives that reduce our carbon footprint;
  • advocate for legislators, media outlets, corporations, educators, and others to discuss and address climate change issues.

Find out more about global warming issues with our curated climate change/global warming resources on Pinterest.

Learn more about how people make decisions and how we can influence those decisions with our curated social psychology resources on Pinterest.