A Green Thanksgiving: How to Talk about the Planet

Especially after an intense election season, we realize many of our readers will be doing their best to keep conversations civil and apolitical. But there’s never been a better time to start a discussion about perhaps our most pressing planetary issue: climate change.

Here’s the basic story: “It doesn’t take a genius to notice that climate change is affecting our world and our weather. We have a ton of good solutions, but big oil companies and superPACs are holding up progress.”

Take a look below for these four elements – tested in the real world! – about how to talk to a skeptic about climate change. (Thanks to an excellent report from Breakthough Strategies.)

Forks, knives, and talking points

THE FACTS – “So, how about this weather we’ve been having, huh?”

If there’s any topic you can use to break the ice (ha!), it’s the weather. And what brings a family together like griping about the past year — Hurricane Sandy, record-breaking wildfires, and don’t forget that 2012 is about to close the books on the hottest year on record. Ever.

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY – “Oh my, little Joey, you’ve grown so much since last year!”

This is no longer a question of data, or of certainty, or of causation. We’re starting to see firsthand impacts of a changing climate in our country and worldwide. And that will have definite consequences on the world that little Joey will be growing up in. We owe it to our kids to take action now, before climate change becomes irreversible. (Bonus points: see if you can mention something about a favorite family destination, or a locally important impact of a changing planet!)

PATRIOTIC PRIDE – “When the going gets tough…”

A president receives his turkey

Hey, thanks for sticking your neck out!

Chances are, your family members have been through some tough times, and have seen America struggling through all sorts of adversity. But together, we’ve done great things – from landing on the Moon to eliminating smallpox.

Climate change may seem huge and unbeatable, but there are literally thousands of entrepreneurs and wonks who would just LOVE the chance to tell you about their latest solution to it — from small tweaks in the way we distribute electricity to huge changes in how our economy is powered.

Small businesses and entrepreneurs nationwide are seizing these opportunities, creating jobs, and putting us on a path for a better future. Did a local high school install solar last summer? Talk about it!

ACCOUNTABILITY – “Pass the gravy train.”

You don’t have to be a treehugger to realize that big oil companies would rather NOT make any of those changes. In fact, they’re making more money … than ever, in the history of money, and have been obstructing these solutions every chance they get. Oil and coal companies have spent literally tens of millions of dollars – in just this last election alone – to influence elections and lobby in Washington.

The American Petroleum Institute wasn’t too coy about their motives in a strategy memo released this fall: “Victory will be achieved when average citizens ‘understand’ uncertainties in climate science.”

This is the SuperPAC strategy, the tobacco industry strategy. We’ve seen it before, and it doesn’t work — if we make sure that the lobbyists don’t get their way. And really, unless that troublesome uncle IS, in fact, a coal lobbyist, he probably agrees with you on this one.


Even just starting a conversation with someone who doesn’t usually think about the planet — whether or not you’re changing any minds — can do a world of good. Suddenly in an argument? We have a hunch that a good pumpkin pie can help mend any hurt feelings.

Who will you be talking with? Let us know how it goes!

Photo credits: Radio Rover and Anthony Catalano, via flickr. Turkey via Wikimedia, public domain.

2 thoughts on “A Green Thanksgiving: How to Talk about the Planet

  1. thejoyfuleater

    How about mentioning one of the greenest solutions of all – a lot less turkey and a more sustainable diet! Switching to a plant-based diet would do wonders to reduce the carbon-based footprint of our daily lives. Did you know that a person prevents more climate change pollution by going vegetarian than by switching to a hybrid car? And….it takes, on average, more than ten times as much fossil fuel to make one calorie of animal protein as it does to make one calorie of plant protein!

    Check out my website – thejoyfuleater.wordpress.com for more information on wellness – both for the planet and ourselves – through plant-based eating! My family will be enjoying some delicious vegan Thanksgiving traditions again this year! Happy Thanksgiving, and JOYFUL EATING!

  2. Jeff Gang

    Hi Joyful Eater – we’re totally with you on that. See our other posts on cooking and vegetarianism! But while it may be pointless to try to convince your whole family to forego turkey, we’re hoping that changing the conversation is totally doable.

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