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On being nice

It’s hard to talk to your friends about climate change. But it’s really important that we all try. Our top tip? Be nice!

FlightFree UK
03 May 2021 4 min read

Image shows a man a a woman talking and drinking coffee
Photo credit: Christin Hume on Unsplash

Policy makers, scientists and campaigners agree: one of the best things you can do to prevent dangerous climate change is to talk to your friends about it.

But how do you talk to your friends about climate change, and, in particular, not flying, while keeping them as friends?

Maja Rosen, the founder of the Flight Free movement in Sweden, has written a guide based on her experiences of having climate conversations, and her number one rule is, Be Nice.

Stay cool, be nice

First of all, staying cool is important for your own well being. You won’t always convince people to stop flying the first time you talk to them. In fact, if you ask people to pledge to be flight free, far more people say no than say yes, at least at first. You need to be prepared to be rejected without getting your feelings hurt.

"You need to be prepared to be rejected without getting your feelings hurt."

But also, people might change their mind after thinking about it and finding out more. You want to keep the conversation open for the future. If you shout at your friends they probably won’t want to talk about climate change with you again. Plus, you want them to feel that non-flyers are a pleasant group of people, otherwise, they won't want to join us.

So how do you stay nice? No two conversations go the same way, but the Flight Free UK team has put their heads together and come up with a few tips.

Look for the right opportunity

First, are your friends up to speed on the climate emergency? If not, don’t try to frighten them into action with doomsday scenarios. If they aren’t already concerned, they will probably just think it sounds unrealistic. It’s enough to say that the situation is very serious, but there are still things we can do to make it better.

"Don't frighten them into action. Find out who they respect and listen to."

Look for the right opportunity. If they bring the subject up, great! If not, perhaps there’s a book or a documentary that everyone’s talking about, or a celebrity who is in the news. Find out who they respect and listen to. If that isn’t you, you might be able to find a favourite band or a sporting hero who is taking action on climate change.

Image shows two women sitting on swings talking and laughing.
Photo credit: bewakoof on Unsplash

"What can I do?"

Many people’s top question about climate change is ‘What can I do?’ Choosing not to fly is a great place to start, but, if your friend isn’t ready to do that yet, you could suggest other actions that they find easier. Writing to their MP, joining a campaign, eating less meat, or leaving the car at home (if they have one) are all good contributions. Take one step and the next one will seem easier.

Appeal to their values

Appeal to their values. Not everyone likes moral or ethical arguments. Some people like to make their own minds up. If that’s the case, you could give them the data they need. Ask your friend about their last flight, and show them how to look up the carbon emissions per passenger for that journey. Two useful numbers to remember: emissions need to be cut in half in the next ten years, and in 2018 passenger aviation was 7% of UK carbon emissions.

Every choice matters

Changing our habits and behaviour is hard, and being made to feel guilty or shamed by others doesn’t help. It’s so easy to feel that the climate crisis is out of our control. Support your friend to feel empowered to make the right choices where they can – like where they go on holiday. Scientists agree: every choice matters.

"Changing our habits and behaviour is hard. Support your friend to feel empowered to make the right choices."

Image shows two women sitting beside a table talking.
Photo credit: Christina Wocintechchat on Unsplash

Don't argue

Avoid getting drawn into an argument on their terms. If they try to make it a conversation about billionaires, population control, or China, you could try just calmly repeating your main point, such as ‘Emissions need to halve in ten years, and we all have a part to play.’ And then talk about something else.

Be inspiring

Some people respond better to messages about what they can do rather than what they can’t. If you’ve had a wonderful holiday in the UK, or an exciting European train journey, talk about that. Find some inspiring no-fly social media accounts for them to follow, such as Byway Travel, nomoreflights.com, and the Flight Free Travellers Network on Facebook. Choosing not to fly could be the start of a whole new set of adventures.

"Tell them what they can do. Find inspiring no-fly social media accounts for them to follow."

Do your best!

Do your best! The climate crisis is not your friend’s fault. Sometimes it is hard to stay nice when inside you are yelling ‘How can you still be thinking about flying on holiday when I just explained about the climate emergency!’ But none of us is perfect and we are all on a journey.

Small steps might not seem like enough, because they are not enough, but we won’t get to our destination without them.

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