'Where Is That Fire In Your Belly?:' Concerned Citizens Learn To Teach Others About Climate Change

Aug 10, 2017

In South Florida, climate change means higher seas, stronger storms and hotter summers. That could make the region unlivable within a couple hundred years. But scientists say if the world takes steps like reducing carbon emissions, we could buy ourselves some time.

A group of concerned citizens is trying to get that message out.

About a dozen people met Wednesday night at the Cushman School on Miami's Upper East Side to learn how to become "climate speakers" -- people who educate others about climate change science and solutions. The non-profit CLEO Institute led the free session, intended to pique the interest of prospective speakers.

"You’re not coming across like, ‘I am a climate scientist and I’m just going to tell you what’s going down,'" CLEO director Caroline Lewis told the group. "You say, ‘I’m a concerned citizen, I’m learning. And here’s what I’ve found out.' "

Lewis said participants should use that strategy in conversations with family, friends and coworkers.

From left, Tyler Colebrooke, Tara Malachi and Summer Snyder. Snyder said the session made her think about how daily actions -- 'what we're spending our money on, or even wasting gas' -- can have environmental impacts. It's a message she says she plans to share with her friends.
Credit Kate Stein / WLRN

She also encouraged the group to reach out to their churches, neighborhood associations and sports teams to deliver more formal talks about the basics of climate change.

For those interested, Lewis said CLEO will provide a set of slides with essential facts, as well as speaking coaches who help speakers link climate change to other issues that are important to them -- what Lewis called the "fire in your belly."

Tara Malachi, from Miami's Model City neighborhood, said after the session that she wants to focus on how people in low-income communities will be disproportionately affected.

"I live in an area that’s of low socioeconomic status, and I’m very concerned about what would happen to that community or my community if we were impacted by some large, major weather event," she said. "What would happen, how could I help?"

Malachi's son Tyler Colebrooke, a senior at Doctors Charter high school, said the session made him eager to connect politics and climate issues in conversations with classmates and teachers.

"Politics is such a big influence on something like this," he said, adding he'd like elected officials to stop allowing corporations to influence climate policy and decisions on renewable energy.

CLEO staff say they’re scheduling the next climate speakers training, which will once again be open to the public.