By Heidi Nutters
Recently, I was talking with my friends’ 10 year old son about what I do for a living. I explained to him that I work on climate change issues in the San Francisco Bay Area and that we are trying to figure out solutions for communities. He replied to me that he wrote a report for school on climate change, but it was such a big issue that he didn’t feel he could do anything about it and it was quite a depressing topic.

It really struck me that a young person would be informed about climate change, but not feel he had the ability to do anything about it. Recently, the SF Bay and Elkhorn Slough NERR Coastal Training Programs hosted a series of workshops entitled “Communicating Climate Change: Effective skills for engaging stakeholders, partners and the public.” The workshops were led by Cara Pike, creator of Climate Access. You can access some of the materials from these workshops here and here.

I learned a number of striking statistics about audience trends in the US and California on climate change at the workshop. For example, 58% of Americans say they worry a great deal or a fair amount about global warming (Gallup 2013). However, most Americans also believe that global warming will primarily harm future generations and plant/animal species (Yale/GMU, 2013). While Americans are highly concerned about the issue, it doesn’t feel personal to them. What’s more, many American’s have hope about this issue, but don’t feel that governments and corporations have what it takes to address the challenge. All of this reminds me of my friends son, who was knowledgeable about the issue, very concerned about it, but felt that there was little that could be done.

While I don’t have all of the answers to this large-scale problem, working on climate change issues in the San Francisco Bay makes me more aware that there is a significant amount of work being done on this issue, and lots of opportunities for the public to get involved. Over my next few blog posts, I will cover some of the ongoing projects happening locally, and how people can be involved. Below, I’ll start by sharing resources on how to get more informed and tips on talking to young people about climate change.

Get Informed

There are plenty of excellent resources available to learn more about climate change.

Take a class!

  • Free Online Course, “Climate Change in 4 Dimensions”, taught by UC San Diego professors. You can access it here: https://www.coursera.org/course/4dimensions

Check out local resources!

  • Save the Bay, a local nonprofit environmental group has an excellent resource on tidal wetlands and sea level rise
  • SPUR, based in San Francisco, also has workshops and online resources for the public
  • The Pacific Institute, based in Oakland, CA, has an active program looking at climate change and community resilience
Talking to Young People about Climate Change

The main problem I want to solve is how my friends’ 10 year old can feel more empowered around this issue. In researching communications strategies for this blog, I found that many resources on the issue emphasize making kids aware of the issue, but reinforcing that there is hope. I found a great article by the Yale Climate Forum on this topic, which you can access here: http://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2013/04/parenting-in-an-age-of-climate-change-communicating-the-tough-truths-to-children/.

When speaking with my 10 year old pal about my work, I began telling him about some of the options decision-makers are considering to adapt to sea-level rise in the San Francisco Bay, from wetlands to sea walls to retreat. I told him that through my work at the Coastal Training Program, I get to talk to decision-makers all over the region who are working hard to solve this issue — and that they need smart kids like him to be part of the solution! He immediately began to get engaged – he wanted to know more and offered me his thoughts.

Please follow me as I explore some of the exciting happenings on climate change in our area. My hope is that in doing so, we and my 10 year old friend can all feel there is hope on the important and challenging issue.

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