In this section, Brandon Leshchinskiy explains how the Climate 101 presentation was developed.
Developing the Presentation and Deciding What to Include
Developing the presentation was a long and difficult but exciting challenge. I ultimately spent around 300 hours working on the presentation, with the help of a lot of people, including some close friends, family, communications professors, my advisor, and my labmates. Climate change is a massive subject; you can teach entire courses on just the science of climate change, just the economics, just the media, or just the politics. To try to fit that into 45 minutes means inevitably there are difficult choices about what to include.
My goal was that at the end of the presentation, audiences should feel empowered and inspired to learn more on their own. I wanted to include enough information about each of those different parts of climate change, that people would be able to be more discerning in the types of information that they read. And in fact, one of the things we offer is a post-presentation handout, where people can learn more.
But as for actually putting together the material, using different videos, using different sources and so on, the idea was to create a single composition that has a lot of contrast between parts. We wanted to keep people engaged, interested, and excited, while also sharing a large amount of information about climate change from different perspectives. And I think that's what Climate 101 has accomplished.
An Emphasis on Local Insights
Climate change is a huge problem. It affects the entire world. And it happens over the course of decades. But people live their lives at home, or in their town, and people live their lives day to day. So when you start talking about these massive overwhelming changes, it can be really easy to just dismiss them as either things that don't affect me, or things that I can't do anything about.
We feel it’s important to create localized insights and personally meaningful insights because we need to talk about climate change in a way that's relevant to the intended audience. And so if we can say for example, “Here in Boston the city is actually considering building seawalls because of anticipated flooding,” all of a sudden people realize that it's something that's happening in their neighborhood. It’s not just that the earth is warming by 2°C, which doesn't really mean much to them. Instead, they’re thinking, "Oh my goodness, there's going to be flooding in Boston?"
So one of the things we teach our ambassadors is that you need to create at least one slide in your presentation for your specific audience. If you're in Kentucky, talk about how the number of heat wave days is going to increase tremendously in the next 10 to 20 years. If you're on the coast, talk about sea level rise. If you're in the Midwest, talk about flooding. In any case, make sure that the information that you're presenting is immediately relevant and tangible to your audience, so that they can really internalize it and act on it.