I’m just listening to my climate change talk for the first time the day after I gave it at the fire festival in Bournemouth. About 25 people attended but only half stayed until the end. The talk was given in a solar powered art gallery at a free family one day event. It was advertised during the day on a blackboard outside the gallery and with a walk-about performance from 2 characters; myself ‘Dirty Ali’ and ‘Mammon’ the demon of greed.
The walk-about promotion was the idea of the IFSOM (Independent Free State of Mind) gallery co-ordinator and was totally impromptu. Dirty Ali would approach and tell people at the festival where and when the talk will be BUT Mammon would then say it’s all lies and climate change is not really happening. Mammon’s point of view was that people should consume more and ignore what greens are saying ‘every purchase a prayer to me’ whilst Ali would stress ‘Reduce, reuse and recycle’.
Giving the talk was made easier with the use of a template and some skills learnt at a workshop organised by COIN the Climate Outreach Information Network. I had adapted a lot of the material to suit my audience and style. The idea of giving the talk in character rather than myself was made easier as I work full-time at a recycling centre and already own the overalls and know some terminology. In fact Dirty Ali is a phrase meaning Alloy metals mixed in with other materials e.g an electric kettle is dirty alloy as it is both metal and plastic.
I used 16 postcards with bullet points as prompts to help me deliver the talk as this was the first time and I had only rehearsed once. I knew it would take about 10 minutes for me to speak followed by the discussion. Although the discussion seemed like it would tail-off rapidly we actually ended up having quite a lively debate for 15 minutes and connections were made between ourselves and the local Friends of the Earth group. Unfortunately the audio recording does not capture what the audience was saying but I have para-phrased the questions below and tried to repeat / summarise where possible what was said ‘off-mic’.
It turns out that artist Eric Impey (Mammon) also worked for the same company as me some years ago and knows the owner. Friends of the Earth are also looking for volunteers to go into schools and give talks / performances so this could be a joint project for us all. I really enjoyed giving the talk and making connections with new people. The event was also a trial run for the solar part of my renewable energy system CreativeDynamo. The system delivered about 40 watts of power from 8 pm to 3 am and consisted of lighting for the gallery and a public address system used for a poetry workshop, human beat-box and live music.
Did anyone see that channel 4 documentary the great climate change swindle?
Climate camp is an example of living and educating sustainably. You need to live it at www.climatecamp.org Climate camp did have an effect on the Dracs power station which subsequently reduced its output.
Artist Stephen Humphrey’s has used climate change predictions in his art see http://www.myspace.com/azinko41dog and Friends of the Earth distribute leaflets
How did my talk go? It would be better if we could hear you better.
What can you buy at the recycling centre?
Can the recycling centre provide a education centre too?
What happens to the waste that does not fit in your wheelie bin?
So what’s happening in schools then – maybe we could do a schools thing with Friends of the Earth and where you work?
This is a one day course to help anyone speak confidently about this critical issue. They really do mean anyone too as there is not too much jargon, doom or gloom or happy clapping and head-in-the-sand stuff. The event was jointly organised by the Climate Outreach Information Network (www.coinet.org.uk) and Talk Action (www.talkaction.org.uk). The cost was very reasonable and a good mix of people showed up from around the UK and Europe. For example I was lunching with an anarchist and practicing my speaking with a French artist, activists from Portsmouth / London and a local government official who was into bio-gas (Sheffield).
The venue was a remarkable 12th century church in the heart of Londons financial district called St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace (www.stethelburgas.org). The centre was ideally situated (next to Liverpool Street station) and suitable for the number of participants – about 35. The main speaker Duncan has been instrumental in setting up an initiative called Transition Towns (www.transitiontowns.org) which are communities based on a ‘more localised post-peak-oil future’. Duncan was helped out by a freelance workshop facilitator and artist called Anita from Bristol, UK.
The course is based around a template talk which was emailed to participants prior to the event. The template contains about 8 sections covering various aspects of CC that you might like to mention depending on your particular background / interest and audience. The sections included approximate timings and leave enough time for an open discussion at the end. Before starting on the template we were asked to think about what makes a bad or good speaker etc. with Duncan acting out the role of a bad speaker for a laugh.
Along with the template we were given supplementary information including examples of difficult questions and how to overcome them. Avoiding confrontation and negativity along with how to move people and motivate them to your particular cause. As you might expect there was also plenty of factual information to back-up what you are saying and to include it in the talk wherever you see fit We did not dwell on the science or get bogged down in treaties etc. The talk was aimed more towards the social and environmental consequences i.e. issues that affect real people rather than politicians. In fact quite a few people there were distrusting of governments and political solutions. It seems that the future of the planet is in our hands and this is the message we have to spread to those not already listening.
The event ran from 10 am to 4.30 pm but we did not seem to have enough time at the end and dashed through the how to host an open discussion with your audience. At the very end we were encouraged to tell the group what action we will be taking in the next week towards meeting our goal of publicly speaking about climate change. By the end of it I was feeling quite confident and am going to arrange something back home in Bournemouth, UK on 12th May. Quite how this goes remains to be seen but it is a testament to the course that I now feel confident enough to stand-up and be heard on the topic.
As the guy sitting next to me said in section 5 The Need To Take Action – ‘there are so many reasons for us to take immediate action now, but for me the main reason is that future generations just won’t have the chance’. So I have 10 days to re-work the template into my own words and deliver it as smoothly as I can – watch this space!