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I wrote this post at an amazing training program for 1,000 new people we call our Climate Leaders. Everywhere I look, there's a tremendous amount of energy and engagement. People from all over the world are converging to help us take the next step in the movement to solve this urgent crisis.

So what is that next step? What do we need to do next? Well, in truth, we need to do a lot of things. But one essential action that emerged here at the training is reaching out to people who may not be inclined to think climate change is a serious problem. We call it "winning the conversation." It's how we broaden and deepen public support for finding solutions to climate change.

First off, we know there are many people who simply resist the need for solutions — or even the idea that climate change is real. As Jason Miner, who leads communications at The Climate Reality Project, reminded us: "Some are resistant because their paycheck relies on the status quo. Some are resistant because of a perceived ideological difference."  

But that doesn't mean we can't make progress. We won't ever convince the hard-core climate deniers, but many others will listen to us when we're respectful, find common ground, and speak from our personal experiences.  Remember: Our message is powerful because it's based in reality.  

Joan Blades, a co-founder of, spoke of the importance of reaching outside our comfort zones and speaking to people of different backgrounds and beliefs. To help us get out of what she calls our "self-segregated communities," Joan co-founded to help build civil discourse among people with diverse views.

As we learned, another part of winning the conversation is engaging people on social media. To quote Aaron Dignan, CEO of the digital strategy firm Undercurrent: "All of our work that we're doing today is going to be judged by our ability to engage and empower a network." In-person interactions are crucial — but we use digital tools to expand the movement and widen our reach.

Let me share one more important anecdote from the training. We were incredibly fortunate to have Grammy Award-winning musician Kathy Mattea to share with us why climate activism is such an important part of her life. She called her experience "my coal journey."

Kathy grew up in Appalachian coal country, and after the Sago Mine disaster in West Virginia killed 12 mine workers in 2006, she began to speak out about the impacts of the coal industry on people's lives. And she also trained as one of our Climate Leaders to speak out about the reality of climate change.

"I began to see that coal wasn't my parents' story at all," she said. "It was my story. I just had never known it."

The way that Kathy Mattea talks to people about climate change is by telling her own story — and setting it to very powerful music. And that's what we all have to do, in our own ways. It's an issue that can be very difficult to talk about, but we use our personal stories to make connections with other people.

As Kathy said to us, "If we go out into the world and we look at a world that can't change, that's what we will find. And if we go out into the world and look at the pockets of people that might be open to change, that's what we will find."

What are your ideas for how we can win the climate conversation?

Originally posted to Sabrina Cowden on Fri Aug 24, 2012 at 08:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, Barriers and Bridges, J Town, and Positive Intention and Lovingkindness.

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