Andrea Learned

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Rally Around Climate Action “Yes, And…”

The word YES carved in sand.Over my years in climate action, I’ve certainly noticed a few things. One: organizations or approaches quickly fall into their siloed worlds. Two: There’s a lot of “Yes, but…” Both are stopping our roll forward. And, while I am far from the first person to use the term, I’d suggest that “Yes, and…” needs a LOT more attention right about now. We need to look way up and away from our silos, to bridge to the bigger boat and fully trust that the best solutions will self-select ultimately.

We tend to look at this in a frantic, short-term way because – well, we don’t have much time. Instead, I suggest we allow that, however we all get started, the failures and pivots of so many of our own solutions will lead us toward the most inclusive, accessible, socially just, and good for all choice. A flowing river eventually forces its way around boulders and fallen limbs. That’s why I see relaxing into and training our collective brains mindfully towards, “Yes, and…” is the gold.

My thinking stems from my leadership platform theory of change loving up step.  Too quickly, people and organizations default to the broadcast, look at me, tradition. It seems like it simply must be the straightest line to the ends we desire (come to our event, read our research, notice our leader). Yet, along that straight line there is no invitation to come along for the ride, or to explore this – and get excited about it – together.

This isn’t mealy mouthed, touchy feel stuff. I’ve seen it myself and with my clients. To build social capital and community, you must reach out first. You must love up what others already in the space have been attempting to then, eventually, get their eyes over to your solution. That’s “Yes (thank you), and…”

Examples from my own work:

I started the #Bikes4Climate tag just after COP21 and have been rolling with it ever since. It is not my pedaling way or the (traffic congested, pollution emitting) highway. It’s more: try it, you’ll love it, and – if your experience is anything like mine – you’ll quickly find ways to use a bike or eBike for your short trips and use your car way less. It’s true that most of us can’t conceive of life without a car, AND we can all still have a lot of fun, freedom, and act on climate a wee bit more, by choosing a bike more often. It will self-reinforce. It will.

In the plant-based space, there’s the long running bristle against this “no animal products” take being overly extreme, too political etc. To get more people past that aversion, we may need to trust this process (which I believe we are already seeing play out in real time. Bloomberg recently published a Mike Dorning piece on meat being the new coal, after all): try a bit more plant-based eating, you’ll love it. No one needs to know unless you are so compelled to shout it from the rooftops. As with cars and bikes, and using my own plant-based shift story as an anecdote, cutting out more animal products promptly delivers feelings of health you never knew possible. Once folks try it, it is so likely that many of them will notice that and keep veering in that direction.

“Yes, and…” opens the possibility of trying it, not having to put yourself in a whole new box and then taking your time to discover that it truly serves your self-interest.

Now, I am with all of those who’ve been in this space for a long time, hammering about how we must act on climate in all ways right this second. It truly does feel like supporting people better to help their plant based or more biking process will take far too long. But reflect for one moment. The in-your-face freak-out has not worked. What we have seen is that support, better storytelling and messaging, and better leveraging a few key influencers (my favored strategy) is a drip, drip, drip that seems to suddenly turn into a gushing faucet of interest. Look at plant-based investing or solar energy, as examples.

So, this is a call to love (way) up that which is working, even if it isn’t your exact agenda. Keep nudging your approach into the broader conversation. In interactions and messaging, use the “Yes (we hear you and appreciate you approach), and… (try this other, simpler solution, you’ll LOVE).” Nudge your social media and content framing in that direction. Find others in the space to engage with more publicly. Identify your sector’s most amazing conversion stories (35-year-old white male in the center of the U.S. who grew up on meat heavy diet decides to go plant-based for whatever reason and… whoa… loves it) and help THEM get more comfortable sharing those tales.

It may seem slower and too lovey-dovey, but I can attest from helping clients take a more “Yes, and…” strategic approach, it truly offers hope for this time. And the ride along the way is rewarding step by step.




Note: I shifted from a vegetarian diet to a plant-based diet five years ago. MY journey was driven by health first, and then climate action. The agriculture and land use facts affirmed my decision (and how).  The bonus to it all is less suffering of humans and animals. I believe we have lots of opportunity to work on the communications and storytelling if we want to help more people, starting with climate action advocates and leaders, veer away from animal agriculture toward plants.