Climate communication with Ranger Ross O’Ceallaigh

Ross interviewing for The Green Urbanist podcast by Josh Cunningham

Ross O’Ceallaigh is a London National Park City Ranger whose work increasingly centres around climate communication. Here he shares some suggestions for how we might communicate with people in a way that inspires positive action.

I’m an urban designer, climate communicator and London National Park City based in Tower Hamlets. Through my day job, my role as a Ranger and my podcast, The Green Urbanist, I’ve found myself spending more and more time engaging in climate communication. Climate change is complicated and scary. It’s impossible to ignore and yet uncomfortable for people to engage in. So, how can we communicate with people in a way that inspires positive action? Below are a few humble suggestions from my experience.

Find the opportunity in crisis

There’s a cartoon I often use in presentations that depicts a man standing up at a climate conference and saying, “What if climate change is a hoax and we create a better world for nothing?”. This is the aspect of climate action so many people miss. It’s not about sacrifice, it’s about creating a better life for everyone. The actions we must take on climate change – like switching to renewable energy, regenerating nature, walking and cycling, and insulating homes – are all things we would want to do anyway. Climate change is forcing us to transform society and cities for the better, so let’s not miss that opportunity. Communicating the opportunities for better health, more biodiversity, stronger communities and lower bills can inspire people towards climate action.

Bring it down to earth but don’t forget the big picture

Climate change can seem big, abstract and distant. Bringing it down to earth with tangible examples can help your audience to see what action looks like. I had the pleasure of interviewing Rangers Divya, Luke and Charles for episodes of The Green Urbanist podcast about the work they are doing in their local areas. From planting community orchards to creating a parklet and a local nature reserve, their projects are local, grassroots initiatives. These projects are inspiring in themselves but what struck me is how the Rangers kept an eye on the big picture. For these Rangers, connecting city residents to nature is a way of building stronger communities, inspiring sustainable behaviour and accelerating climate action. To me, that makes their stories all the more compelling.

Rangers tree planting in Wood Green by R O'Ceallaigh

Let your audience explore solutions and learn by doing

In October 2022, I co-facilitated student workshops at the School’s Climate Assembly in Sheffield. Instead of spending our time lecturing these teenagers about what climate action is needed, we decided to let them figure it out themselves. Using the En-Roads Climate Simulator (an excellent, free tool for testing climate actions), we got the students working in groups to figure what actions they thought would be most impactful in reducing global temperature rise. We then tested their suggestions in En-Roads and discussed the results. Seeing in real-time the impact of reducing deforestation, investing in renewables or electrifying transport (among many others) allowed the students to develop a deep understanding of why certain actions are more impactful than others. Instead of being presented with lots of dense information, the students generated their own knowledge through experience. Facilitating your audience to learn by doing can be much more impactful than simply presenting them with facts.

En Roads climate simulator

Open up to diverse perspectives

We all may feel like we know what needs to happen to stop climate change. But how do we know we’re right? Other people, just as passionate and knowledgeable as us, may have totally different ideas. Creating space for these diverse perspectives can be uncomfortable but it is essential to figure out a path to a sustainable and fair future. The London National Park City podcast, The Regrowth Project, does this beautifully. The whole concept is to bring together interesting and diverse people for a conversation around an important topic. I got the chance to host an episode about ‘rebirth’ and the conversation covered a huge range of topics including power structures, indigenous knowledge, ancient religions and microbiology. Creating space for such diversity is always enriching and reminds us that no one person has all the answers.

Tour of community orchard with Ranger Divya by R O'Ceallaigh

Blog post by Ranger Ross O’Ceallaigh.

Listen to The Regrowth Project a podcast series from London National Park City, including episode 4 ‘Rebirth’ hosted by Ross:

Listen here

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