4 Thanksgiving Conversation Starters

This Thanksgiving, we are going to try to channel the true meaning of Aloha, and we invite you to join us. Most of us hear “Aloha” and think – Hawaiian greeting – a simple expression of hello or goodbye. The deeper Hawaiian meaning is actually much more complex; it expresses the combined notions of compassion, love and peace.

Now more then ever, love, compassion and peace are feelings, hopes and ideals that we need to embrace. Our country and our personal relationships with loved ones, neighbors and friends, must find ways to move forward in a positive and constructive direction.

Social scientists tell us (and it seems evident to most of us) that our nation is in the midst of a cultural, political and emotional upheaval. We are divided in so many fundamental ways on huge issues like race, inequality, religious intolerance, sexual freedoms, gender inequality and of course climate change.

Deciding simply not to “talk about” our differing opinions and views is NOT the way to move ourselves, our families, or our nation forward. Not only do we need to talk about our hopes and our concerns, we need to try our best to hear and listen to different opinions, and let others share their hopes and concerns with us as well. Listening to family and friends and really HEARING the views of those who think differently then us is critical to finding common ground and creating hope.

As such, we wanted to offer 4 broad tips and conversation ideas that resonate deeply with us. We feel that the advice below is useful – not only for Thanksgiving discussions – but also for sharing, thinking and acting on, well beyond Thanksgiving and the holiday season. We have abbreviated the important messages below and pulled them out of longer discussions. We are adding links to the first three posts in their entirety so you can dig deeper as well.

On Climate facts from A Climate Scientist
Richard C.J. Somerville: Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

Have a civil conversation. In his heart, your “Uncle Pete” would probably admit that everybody is entitled to his own opinions, but not to his own facts. When it comes to facts, we scientists have the high ground. The world is warming. It’s not a hoax. We measure it. The warming did not stop in 1998. All the warmest years are recent years. 2016 will be the warmest year on record. 2015 is second. 2014 is third. The atmosphere is warming, and so is the ocean. Sea level is rising. Ice sheets and glaciers are shrinking. Rainfall patterns and severe weather events are changing. Climate change is real, and serious, and happening right here, right now. And it isn’t natural. Human activities are the dominant cause of the climate changes we have observed in recent decades.

We must act. We can’t dither any longer. If Uncle Pete wants to keep the government from controlling his life and diminishing his freedom–as most all of us do–then we all need to learn about and accept the science. We all need to take the threat of climate change seriously. We all must act wisely, and urgently, to minimize that threat and thereby limit the damage of climate change to tolerable levels.

On Hate & Anger that welled up during and since November 2016 Election

John Pavlovitz: Pastor and writer from Wake Forest, North Carolina

I believe you when you say that you’re not a racist.
I believe you when you say that you’re not a bigot.
I believe you when you say you’re not homophobic.
I believe you when you say you’re not a misogynist.
I believe you when you say you’re not an Islamophobe.
I believe you when you say you’re not an anti-Semite.
I believe you when you say that you don’t condone violence and discrimination and bullying.

But I won’t keep believing you if you remain silent.

On being Sanctimonious
Lisa Bennett: Mom, writer, speaker and communication strategist, California

Opinions may vary but this much seems clear: Suggesting that climate change (or any issue) is more important than all others is simply not helpful. It invites argument. It belies the fact that all big issues are complex and, in many ways, connected. And, perhaps most importantly, it fails to reflect how human beings experience life, which is on a much more immediate and personal level. Last year, for example, when my mother was dying, climate change became a complete abstraction to me. When I’ve been out of work, making money has been the most important thing. When I’ve been sick, getting healthy trumped everything. And people have these kinds experiences every day, which means that every time someone says climate change is the most important issue of the day, they run smack into the objection (repeatedly affirmed by polls) that says: Not to me. At least, not to me right now.

So if you want to avoid the sanctimonious trap, refrain from saying that climate change (or whatever your issue) is the most important issue of our day. Call it important; or better yet, say it concerns you for whatever personal reason it does—and whatever reason you think might be shared by the person you are talking to. Avoid implying that you know better, or in any way are better than others because of what you understand or do about the environment (even if it makes you nervous that they “don’t get it.”)

On Sharing our Sadness and our Hope

Finally, as your Climate Mama, I too want to share my “two cents” about the politicization of climate change and the critical importance of moving forward with solutions.  As I write this, the November 2018 fires in California are still not out, and the physical and emotional destruction across the state is as heavy and thick as the smoke that has been blanketing many parts of the state, including San Francisco. Earlier this week, we in New York City, smelled, saw and tasted the smoke from 3000 miles away. I have many dear friends in the San Francisco bay area, they are far away from the flames of the fires, yet they have been directly impacted as toxic smoke has enveloped their city. My friends have shared photos of themselves in masks, and shared that they have been unable to get out of their homes for days. Several friends have called me incredibly distraught, wanting to share their immense sadness with someone from outside the “impact zone.”  The stark realities of our climate crisis are confronting them in ways both real and raw. There is much written about the connections between wildfires and climate change, I will share just one such reference here. But my point in sharing my sadness for my friends with you now, as we approach this joyful holiday time, is that we must not shy away from talking about our reality. We are living climate change, it is of our own creation, the impacts will only get worse, and we can do something, and scientists and our planet are telling us in no uncertain terms that we must act now; we are out of time.

At our holiday tables and in the rooms where our family, dear friends and loved ones are gathered, we can and we must share our sorrows and concerns. If we can’t talk to those that love us about what we are feeling, hearing and seeing, then our species and our children are in deeper trouble then even we can imagine. There is no one right way to talk to Uncle Bob, Mom, or cousin Bernie. Feel your way, share your personal stories, do your homework, and ask them to share their stories too. There is a way forward and it begins with love, with empathy and with caring.

Do send us your tips and conversation starters. We would love to share them.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Climate Mama


This post is adapted from a 2017 ClimateMama Thanksgiving post

*Leaf Reflection Photo by Derek Thomson on Unsplash

* Socks and Book Photo by Alex Geerts on Unsplash

This entry was posted in Climate Mama News, Do Something Wednesdays, Food, Holidays, Politics, Take a Stand: Action & Advocacy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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