In time for the United Nations’ Climate Week, the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University is launching a new professional development program designed to empower inclusive and informed conversations about climate change.
The three-hour program, Climate Conversations Online, is designed for scientists, researchers and others whose work focuses on climate change and its impact on our world. The program is designed to help these experts understand how to connect with others and engage them in productive conversations about this complex and controversial topic.
“Climate change isn’t just about science,” said Laura Lindenfeld, Alda Center executive director and dean of the School of Communication and Journalism. “It’s about your political beliefs, where you live, and how you feel about and interact with the world around you. It’s an environmental issue, a justice issue, a health issue, a national security issue — it’s an everything issue. For their work to resonate with their audiences, climate scientists must understand where very different people may be coming from. In creating this workshop, we wanted to help climate scientists engage people with diverse lived experiences.”
The program aims to help participants identify, empathize with and find common ground across others’ perspectives. By understanding these perspectives, people can come together to build trust and understanding, and, from there, take actions that work for individuals, communities and society at large.
“Climate Conversations is not necessarily about changing people’s minds; it’s about building trust and creating a civil, compassionate space for vitally important conversations,” said Julia Hathaway, a researcher at the Alda Center and one of the program’s creators. “In creating this workshop, we want to empower climate scientists to engage others meaningfully in this vitally important, global conversation.”
Like all Alda Center programs, Climate Conversations Online is rooted in the Alda Method, a unique communication training technique that blends improvisational theater exercises with message-design strategies. The Method, taught by certified instructors, includes a series of deliberately structured experiences, role-play, and peer feedback to empower effective and engaged communication.
Organizations, including universities, government agencies, research facilities and others, can book a session of the program, which is offered live through Zoom video conferencing technology. It is led by two Alda-certified instructors and can accommodate up to 20 individuals.