These are a few suggestions based on reading and occasional interaction…
This is not a research article.
Lets begin with the don’ts.
Don’t talk about climate change.
If people do not “believe” in climate change, you are not going to persuade them otherwise.
Groups are already polarised on this issue, and it brings up lots of reasons not to talk to each other, suspicions and so on. It becomes a matter of identity and allegiance. You need to go beyond this.
Don’t go on about the evidence.
They have rejected the evidence, and you personally are probably not a climate researcher.
Both of you are taking the evidence to a large extent based on authority.
They believe a different authority, or think they are “independent thinkers”.
Some psycho-social research shows that counter-evidence to what people already believe, is rarely compelling and sets up resistance especially when its tied in with identity politics (which seems to be the case on both sides).
Another obvious point: Talking about people or telling people they are ignorant, stupid or easily conned is harmful to communication. That they already call you similar things does not excuse this. Only do it, if you want to waste your time.
If you are a politician speaking to a wide audience, then its different. You have to clearly say what you will do and why its not harmful.
You need to lower fear and scare. And climate change is scary (even if you deny it, the you are probably scared of what those other people might do to stop it).
For example Bill Shorten, Australian Labor Party leader, could have said, and as far as I can tell did not say:
“The Adani mine will not bring jobs. In court, talking about the big mine, Adani promised less then 1,500 job *years* of work for people in the mine or as a result of the mine. This is not very many, especially given the project is supposed to last 25 to 30 years. There are 750 two year jobs for example. We will actively compensate for and exceed these few jobs in Central Queensland, with useful projects (names a few).
“The Adani mine, being open cut, is likely to pollute the Great Artesian Basin and that could damage water supplies and agriculture down large parts of east coast Australia. We cannot risk that loss of jobs, food security and prosperity. If water safety cannot be guaranteed, or we find the CSIRO were pressured to give a particular result, the mine will not go ahead. We will also not support Adani being given unlimited rights to water, this is suicidal given current climatic conditions
“We want to encourage electric cars, not force people to buy them. As usual the Government is lying.”
This still will not get your message through the Murdoch Empire. They will lie about you whatever you do, but keep on trying – people don’t have to depend on them.
What can you do?
Talk and building connection is more important than persuasion.
You might even learn something if you are not trying to persuade people. They may still try and score points off you, but just keep talking, making some kind of connection. They may even say things you can agree with, and that can build bonds.
You don’t have to agree with people on everything to like them, or talk to them. This idea is quite radical in itself in our society 🙂 It is also a lot easier to say, than to do. Our society does not encourage discussion, it encourages telling people each other where they are wrong (This is a “think about doing what i say, not what i do” post 🙂
Face to face is probably better.
You can talk in groups, many people find it easier, but it can also open old fractures, so get ready to damp that down. That people turned up, means they are interested in talking.
Sense of Place Nearly everyone has some kind of tie to a place they love, means a lot to them, or is their home. What is it about that place? What do they do there? Is it the same as it was? If not, how has it changed. How could it be protected?
Again, the point is to explore relation to place. It is not about cause or blame, unless the others introduce that.
People who may deny climate change can talk about lengthening drought, changes in wildlife, the decline in bird species, the difficulties with water, the greater amounts of fertiliser they have to use, the increase in dirt (particulate pollution?). What other changes affect their lives? Are you both gardeners? – that can lead to ecological connection, although it does not have to. All these are important, but they won’t talk if they feel you are trying to manipulate them or sell them something. So don’t. People’s experience of place and change is interesting in itself – its actually vital.
There is no ecological thinking without an awareness of the environment – and awareness of environment leads to new questions and thinking.
Talk about your own experiences apolitically – give back. What might you share?
If you live in a country area, you probably know the place they are talking about, and can probably relate to them.
What remedies might they have tried? If nothing, then fine, but it is likely they have tried something; like cleanups, changing the water flows, rotating crops, tree planting, opening a wind farm, having an Airbnb to raise cash, moving to a different place etc. How did it work? How do they find the bank, or government (or other) services? What have they heard about, but is really not practical?
There is lots of stuff to talk about. Perhaps they are as depressed/distressed as you, but about other things.
In ecology everything is connected. Surprising things happen. Maybe they got in a rainmaker and it worked. Maybe turtles appeared out of nowhere. It’s good to relate to a special place and notice changes.
The point is this is a long process requiring patience. Its about building relationships, building communities, that have been (I suspect) deliberately broken, largely by pro-fossil fuel organisations and political opportunism. Be prepared for things to go wrong. In some cases people have a lot invested in preventing conversations. You just start again, maybe with different people.
It is not about winning. We either get through this together or not at all, and we can all learn.