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Listen, learn, and unite to act: One scientist’s approach to building trust to engage the public in climate science

Authors: Jennie DeMarco*, Western Colorado University
Topics: Communication, Environmental Science, Global Change
Keywords: climate change, science storytelling, engaged scientists
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual Track 8
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


I am on an airplane heading to Alaska. The man sitting next to me asks, “Why are you going to Alaska?” I hesitate for a moment. Before answering, I return his question with some questions of my own. Where is he from? What does he do for a living? I take in his answers and formulate my response. The arctic in Alaska is changing I answer. I am a scientist. I am going to Alaska to understand how it is changing. I continue to engage in conversation with him. I do not judge, I show him respect, and I share my love for understanding the natural world.

Fast-forward 10 years. I am still a scientist, still studying the arctic. The arctic is still changing. Over my career, I have often wrestled with the question of “What can I do about climate change?” The thought of trying to overthrow capitalism and take down big oil companies overwhelms me. I vote. I try to get people elected who might be able to do this. But what else can I do? How can I inspire people to care? By connecting people to science in an emotional through science storytelling and building trust between scientists and the public through collaborations.

My climate change strike sign read, “This is a battle we cannot win alone. Unite to fight climate change.” Only if we unite together, listen to each other, and build trust can we begin to form a reaction that will drive action.

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