Libraries, businesses, social media, schools, Community Bike Works, the Boys and Girls Club, community centers, local Environmental Advisory Councils – these are just some of the locations for NNC’s CREATE Connections project. The project casts a broad net in order to link people with different strengths and resources across Easton and Bethlehem. Sharing those strengths and resources makes us collectively better able to bring about the sustainable communities we want to live in. Maybe there’s a great community garden down the street from you, maybe a local business offers discounts if you ride your bike, maybe there are a dozen other parents on your block concerned about the air quality for their children’s walk to school – the only way to discover many of these opportunities to enrich our quality of life is to CREATE Connections!
Our focus for the CREATE Connections project is to build relationships and develop an educational approach, and conduct outreach to support the Climate Action Plans adopted in Easton and Bethlehem, PA. Why engage the whole community in climate action? Because climate change relates to just about every aspect of our lives and to many of our shared community values. If we want to live in a place that has healthy, clean air and water, access to nutritious food for all, is safe to walk and bike around, is resilient to extreme weather and natural hazards, and has plentiful trees and green space, then we have to consider how to power our homes and offices, produce our food, get from place A to B, purchase the items we want and need, dispose of our trash, and more, while producing less carbon emissions and prioritizing a healthy environment. NNC, the city government, or even the state or federal government can’t control all of those aspects of how we live – it takes all of us.
It takes all of us! Volunteer tree plantings, farmer’s markets, and community discussions are just some of the ways you can get involved.
So then how do we get everyone on board? Studies suggest that ideas spread further and more quickly when they come from a variety of sources. So, a message that is only posted on social media won’t spread as well as one that is also part of a radio advertisement, on a flyer at local businesses, part of a program at the library in addition to being discussed by your friends and neighbors. (Learn about more of this research by Dr. Dennis Mileti here.)
Then, for people to really internalize those ideas and act on them, it is important that they continue to see a variety of people around them act on the same idea over time. If I have one friend who starts taking the bus to work, I probably won’t change my behavior. However, if my friend, multiple coworkers, the mayor of my town, and my parents all start taking the bus, I am much more likely to try taking the bus myself. The book Change: How to Make Big Things Happen, by Damon Centola, is one source that explains the social science research supporting this.
So, to summarize how a large group of people might get on board to do something new, like take climate action:
- Enlist a wide variety of groups and messengers to share the new idea
- Connect those groups and messengers to one another
- People will start to hear the new idea repeatedly, but not always from the same source, and will become more likely to act on the idea
This is the approach we are taking in the CREATE Connections project. First, we are building relationships with many different partners who all have a message to share about their role in climate action. Then, we will link those partners to one another through meetings, fun, engaging educational programs, a newsletter, and shared resources throughout the project. Finally, people in Easton and Bethlehem will learn about ways they can take climate action from all of these partners, for instance, when they stop in at a local business, or if their child is interested in participating in the Youth Climate Summit, or if their parent attends a CREATE Connections program for seniors, or if they pick up a climate-themed book from a special display at the local library. These connections will increase the opportunities people have to learn about how climate change is linked to the things they care about, and to realize that they can join forces with others around them to play an important role in taking climate action.
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This blog post was prepared by the Nurture Nature Center under award NA23SEC0080002 from the Environmental Literacy Program of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOAA or the U.S. Department of Commerce.