Sir Edward Garnier, MP for Harborough, Oadby and Wigston, on communicating about climate change.
It's no secret that us campaigners can have a reputation for being a bit aggressive. Indeed in several initial conversations with MPs, we have found that the most useful outcome of the meeting was simply that they knew we weren't 'lunatics' or 'just out to tell me where I'm getting it wrong' (yes, we have heard these exact words!). From our experience of lobbying MPs over the last three years, we have come to believe that there is a time and a place to express our anger and outrage at the injustice of the global climate crisis, but that meeting with your MP is not one of those.
We attended a fantastic public climate debate last week, organised by Churches Together in Market Harborough. The panel consisted of local experts working on the area including Prof. John Twidell, Councillor Blake Pain, and Conservative MP for Harborough, Oadby and Wigston, Sir Edward Garnier. Towards the end of the engaging and lively debate, we asked Sir Edward what his advice would be in communicating about climate change with others in parliament. He has been kind enough to permit us to post his response on our website;
"One has to address the people you are hoping to persuade in a way that makes them open to what you are trying to say. To persuade you need, unsurprisingly, to be persuasive; hectoring or being offensive will simply turn people away from what you are trying to get across to them. Your passion when talking climate change important- but one must not be so passionate that the message is lost. A self-righteous or fanatically crusading attitude towards any issue, or one that puts the blame with those you are trying to work with, is not conducive to constructive problem-solving and this is no less true when discussing climate change. Believe in your argument but also respect your audience."
None of us are exempt from part responsibility for the currently climate crisis- all of us living in the UK have benefited in some way from the industrialisation of this country and we must take seriously Jesus' call to 'judge not that we shall not be judged'. If we are able to enable people to feel genuinely invited to participate in finding solutions to this increasingly urgent issue, regardless of our political difference, we may just find a way forward.
For more advice on communicating about climate change with those whose opinion differs from our own, go to Climate Outreach's excellent website- www.climateoutreach.org.uk.