Connecting with Americans: A Fresh Perspective

by Bob Perkowitz

On October 4, 2011, 80 strategic leaders representing academia, business, government, media, NGOs and foundations from various sectors gathered in Washington, DC to share thoughts on protecting ecosystems, people and our planet from the accelerating affects of atmospheric pollution. In a structured day of expert speakers and working groups, participants prioritized solutions to break through the roadblocks of legacy carbon interests and keep America at the forefront of economic and technological leadership.
ecoAmerica hosted the Change of Atmosphere Conference to help bring leadership together to build collaboration and develop strategies and tactics to reignite progress on eco-climate challenges. Download summary conference report here. It contains highlights from all of the speakers and sessions, so you can dig into the “Who and How”, “What Can We Sell That People Will Buy“, and the other sessions on engaging with various specific sectors of American society.

Change of Atmosphere Conference 2011

Of particular note is the “Guide for Now” – our synthesis of all the deliberations at the conference. Some participants wanted to “double down” on past strategies and execute them more effectively, while others thought we should use the learnings and develop new strategies to match changed circumstances. Overall, there was a strong consensus that we need to do a much better job of building public support for climate solutions.

    1. The climate movement needs a new master plan for solutions in America that will generate support and solve climate-related problems. Public support can only be built on bold measures that yield tangible benefits for Americans. “Tax and regulate” (cap and trade) might be toxic. However, “empower and reward” (a carbon-pollution fee dividend, given not to the government and Wall Street, but to the American people) would reward low carbon use, establish a direct, beneficial connection between people and natural resource use, and motivate common-sense action on climate.
    2. If we really care about solving the problem more than furthering our individual and organizational interests, we need better collaboration within the broad eco-climate movement as well as authentic partnerships with other key sectors. These need to be built on a base of cooperation, reciprocity, shared values and mutual benefit. We need to share knowledge and best practices amongst ourselves and work together to- ward common goals.
    3. We need to do a much better job of connecting with Americans in personally relevant ways. Just “communicating” our positions with the best framing and words, and delivering them through the right channels and messengers will not be enough. We need to be authentic and provide pragmatic benefits and examples of success that engage, inspire, empower and reward action toward climate solutions.
    4. We must market our successes and undermine climate deniers.

In hindsight, we celebrate the birth, maturation and success of both the conservation and environmental movements. We may now be at the point of launching an effective sustainability movement. There’s no time to lose.

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