Susan Maure Clandillon
Susan Maure Clandillon
It’s not easy being the one with green ‘notions’ in your family. If you happen to be vegetarian or vegan you’ll be a master of dodging comments about eating grass and fielding “but if you were stranded on a desert island, what would you eat?” questions…
It can be hard for people to accept that the world around them is changing and the media’s favourite penchant for pitting boomers against millennials – and even gen Z against millennials – doesn’t help one bit. Intergenerational warfare aside, climate change remains one of the biggest issues of our time, and we’ve mapped out an approach to help you tackle this thorny topic with your nearest and dearest:
The last thing you want to do is get angry or tearful during this discussion. It’s totally understandable that you’re upset about the world you’ve inherited and what the future holds but a calm rational approach will be more effective.
Use the science
Climate change denial is on the wane. These days only the minority of people believe that climate change isn’t real. There is lots of useful climate science [LINK TO SFD CLIMATE SCIENCE ARTICLE] that you can use to further your discussion. Here’s what The National Geographic has to say about global warming.
The UN is calling the next 10 years the ‘decade of action’. Why? Because this decade is our very last chance for us to limit a climate catastrophe. Science tells us that we need to cut our carbon emissions in half by 2030 and get to net zero by 2050 if we’re going to succeed. This means buying local and seasonal produce, reducing meat or eating fully plant based, cycling or walking for short and medium journeys, flying less and buying less stuff – especially clothes. Kapeesh?
If you come from a farming family, maybe don’t lead with the “cows are destroying the planet” argument. Be sensitive to the fact that asking people to change their lives, livelihoods and traditions is A LOT. You’ll be met with stubborn rebuttal if you start on the offensive and try to explain why people are wrong. Especially if you’re a young urban-dwelling whippersnapper!
Look for opportunities for incremental changes. Did they ever think about renewable energy for the farm? Could you help them to turn some land into an allotment? Have they read anything about seaweed-based feed for cattle that produces less methane?
Being sensitive to people’s specific circumstances and approaching with viable solutions will really help you. There is a lot of discussion about a ‘just transition’ to a low carbon world in the climate space. Meaning that people’s lives and livelihoods aren’t decimated by sudden changes in policy and regulations. Be just in your discussions too.
Demonstrate what small change looks like
Be the change you want to see. Are you trying oat milk in your coffee now? Encourage friends and family to give it a taste, or go one step better try a taste test of plant milks. These plant-based products are rising in popularity for reasons beyond sustainability, remember! And if you’re trying to encourage people to walk, cycle and take public transport, then get on yer bike! It’s easier for family members to follow once they have a good example.
Send them interesting articles
Don’t bombard them with every article you read. Do send them thought-provoking pieces of good journalism or interesting podcasts that explore the climate crisis from a new angle. Extra points if it’s written by/ features a journalist or celebrity they respect. Try Greta’s new podcast made by Sweden’s version of RTE.
Don’t be preachy
Whatever you do – don’t at any point adopt a “holier than thou” approach. Nothing is more unappealing and nothing does more to damage your discussion. State the facts, be compassionate, admit that it’s a complex global problem and that you don’t have all the answers.
Make it relevant to their lives
This is your family after all. You know lots about what they like to eat, where they like to shop and what they do for fun. Look for areas where you could help them make quick wins. Do they always do a massive, pre-holiday Penneys shop? Could you suggest an alternative – or even better – take them on a shopping trip to your favourite vintage shops!
And if there’s a family member who fancies themself as the next Master Chef, you could challenge them to a plant-based cook-off. And for the bill-payer(s) of the house, you’ll definitely see some sway when you point out the serious economic savings that can be made by switching to a green energy supplier, it’s not just an environmental win!
Follow these seven principles and we’re sure you’ll make progress in getting Grandad Tom, Auntie Maura, and family black sheep and second-cousin Gary on side. Behaviour change is hard and doesn’t happen overnight, but with a little persistence and a lot of compassion, you could be vying for Ireland’s greenest family in no time!