As I read Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg I realize that we, climate activists, have a violent narrative that is difficult for people to receive. Today's conversation revolves around blame and guilt, but what if we changed the narrative with compassion; replace name calling and insulting with clear communication of our feelings and needs. The viral video from Sunrise bird-dogging Nancy Pelosi was not very compassionate and it does not lead to politicians actually understanding the importance of the situation.
I would like to suggest that when our heads are filled with judgments and analyses that others are bad, greedy, irresponsible, lying, cheating, polluting the environment, valuing profit more than life, or behaving in other ways they shouldn't, very few of them will be interested in our needs. If we want to protect the environment, and we go to a corporate executive with the attitude, "You know, you are really a killer of the planet, you have no right to abuse the land in this way" we have severely impaired our chances of getting out needs met... Of course we may be successful in using such judgements to intimidate people into meeting our needs. If they feel so frightened, guilty, or ashamed that their behavior, we may come to believe that is is possible to "win" by telling people what is wrong with them. With a broader perspective, however, we realize that each time our needs are met in this way, we not only lose, but we have contributed very tangibly to violence on the planet... The more people hear blame and judgement, the more defensive and aggressive they become and the less they will care about our needs in the future.
How do we communicate to the government that we are absolutely terrified of climate inaction. We are scared. We are scared of living in a world where only the rich will be able to buy clean water and air, where only certain places have the money and infrastructure to adapt to the changes coming, where there will be mass starvation and immigration.
I feel hopeful of a green economy. I feel excited about a drastically different society that focuses on connections among one another and the natural environment rather than consumerist ideals. I'm confident that humans will do everything they can to alleviate the crisis.
I'm tired of blaming certain individuals for the hairy mess that we are currently in. Even though companies like Exxon knew about the consequences of their industry for decades, the public liked the increase in productivity, convenience, and standard of living, so it would have been economically and morally wrong to contradict the needs of the public. However, our needs and priorities as a society have drastically changed.
Ok so what are our needs and how do we express our pain in a way which doesn't generate a defensive response? I'd like to say that I need humans to be able to survive regardless of their wealth worldwide. I need other species other than humans to also survive. I need children to live normal lives instead of striking for climate action. I need worldwide eco-literacy. I need people from all backgrounds to be working on this problem in their local communities. I need my friends and family to understand the causes, consequences, and solutions to the problem— I need people to stop blaming one another; in a way it's everyones fault and no one's fault at the same time.