Along with 550 others hosts across the US, Julia Kim and Andreas Karelas hosted a 350.org watch party for the Years of Living Dangerously last month in San Francisco. Kim and Karelas, who work at RE-volv wrote this review about the viewing party they hosted. (RE-volv is a nonprofit that empowers people to finance community-based solar energy projects by donating to a revolving fund. RE-volv raises awareness about solar energy through its community-based solar projects and outreach programs.)
30 friends and climate activists came to see the premiere of “Years of Living Dangerously,” the new series about climate change produced by James Cameron. Through captivating stories, the first episode scratched the surface of this global issue, demonstrating the breadth of climate change and its undeniable linkage to economic, political, and social disruption.
After the screening, we had a lively discussion with our event participants. The show evoked mixed reactions from our attendees. Some thought the stories glazed over important details, while others thought that it was a creative way of engaging the general public. What we came to realize was how incredibly valuable and necessary it is to have events like this, where climate activists get together in person to share their opinions and learn from one another.
Here are a few takeaways from our discussion:
Who is giving the message? The issue of climate change has become so politicized that it can often be divisive with a general audience. The show follows a story of a Christian climate scientist who is able to reach a crowd of climate skeptics since she shares the same religious beliefs and is from the same area as her audience. When people hear about climate change from someone who shares their worldview or comes from a similar background, it’s much more credible. To reach as many people as possible, the climate movement needs messengers that can relate with many different audiences.
What’s the message? Some attendees felt that that the show could have better demonstrated the severity of the climate crisis. This prompted an interesting conversation. To those of us who understand climate change, messages that speak to the urgency of the situation may motivate us to action. But for many who are skeptical, fear-based messaging does not have the intended reaction. Instead, it pushes the two camps further apart. Reaching a certain audience ultimately comes down to crafting a message that resonates with their values. In our opinion, the show made a good attempt to touch on a variety of values by sharing stories regarding economic security, climate induced conflict, and habitat destruction.
Focus on Solutions. The biggest criticism from the group was that the show focused on problems without providing solutions. Since it was only the first episode, we hope that solutions will be a large part of the remainder of the series. But this is an important reminder for the movement; we have to provide people with opportunities to take action. Otherwise, if the solutions are out of our hands, we’re left feeling disempowered by the scale of the problem. Thankfully, opportunities for people to directly affect change exist, such as 350.org’s divestment campaign or crowdfunding local solar projects through RE-volv’s Solar Seed Fund.