Kathleen Biggins holds a block of carbon that produces 1 Kg of CO2 when burned. The U.S. annual emissions per person is 16 tons of C02, which is roughly two of these blocks per hour.
Opening Minds to the impacts of Climate Change
By Wendy Greenberg |Portraits by Andrew Wilkinson | Infographics courtesy of C-Change Conversations
They appear to be an unlikely group to advocate for and educate on climate change. They are not scientists, but they understand the science. They are not politicians; in fact, they are non-political. They have no hidden agenda, but what they have is a concern that climate change will harm our health and economy, and a passionate interest in the well-being of the Earth for future generations.
The 26 volunteers at C-Change Conversations are professional women (and one man), gathering scientific information on climate change, seeking skeptics, booking presentations, and hoping to open minds. They come from careers in marketing, communications, finance, investment, and business. In some ways the messengers are part of the message: that climate change affects all of us, and we all need to listen. They have become known as trusted messengers.
“We are nonpartisan. People can’t tell what our politics are. That is important to us,” said founder and President Kathleen Biggins of Princeton, where the group is based. “As far as I know, no one is doing it the way we are doing it — our approach and strategy are unique,” she says.
Not only is the timing crucial in terms of mitigating climate change damage, but the group sees a “greater opening” among those who were not previously open to learning that climate change can impact them.
C-Change collects and examines new information regularly and puts out a monthly newsletter to update others. Their science advisers, including Princeton’s own Climate Central, have contributed to the C-Change Primer that is the basis for presentations that take them all over the country. “We translate the science,” says Biggins. “We are careful about our role.”
They have been invited to present in 31 states, reaching 163 organizations, and get standing ovations in politically conservative areas. They speak in places that are comfortable to their audiences: garden clubs, country clubs, investment clubs, land trusts, churches, and schools. The presentation takes the topic out of the realm of the environmental and into the economic — how it will impact jobs, personal security and health, and exposure to geopolitical instability.
In the fall of 2019, Biggins and co-founder Katy Kinsolving wrote in Harvard Public Health Magazine that “the top predictor of one’s opinion on climate change is political party affiliation: Individual positions on the issue are often a litmus test of whether someone is a ‘good conservative’ or a ‘good liberal.’ … By meeting with those who are skeptical, in a place where they are comfortable and surrounded by people they consider to be peers and friends, we find they are more willing to listen. We often speak at regularly scheduled meetings, so that audience members do not have to consciously decide to come hear our message. This means they don’t feel disloyal to their ‘tribe,’ uncomfortable, or that they are wasting their time.” more