Adeela Warley: We can only build a better future if we step up, speak out and work together

The Climate Citizens Assembly demonstrated the power of bringing people together to reflect on ethical dilemmas, listen, and learn from each other

How can strangers come together to understand the world’s most challenging issues and have their voice heard?

One way, traced by the BBC’s The People Vs Climate Change, is by exploring the issues together, as the UK-wide Climate Citizens Assembly did. 

The documentary is a remarkable account of how the assembly got to grips with climate change in order to agree on a set of recommendations for government action.

It shows how ordinary citizens can grasp complexity, reflect on ethical dilemmas, listen, learn from each other and reach a consensus.

Compelling communications were at the heart of this historic experiment.

The broadcaster Sir David Attenborough shared his exhilaration in discovering the vivid beauty and abundance of a coral reef – one that is now rapidly turning into a ghostly landscape devoid of life. 

“The way he describes things brings tears to my eyes,” said one assembly member.

Climate scientists provided stark evidence of the impacts of climate change and pointed to the solutions that already exist.

When language proved a barrier, one assembly member admitted with self-deprecating honesty: “I can’t understand a word they’re saying, I’ll need to look in a dictionary”. 

The admission prompted further research and a change of heart. For many, taking part was an unexpectedly life-changing experience.

We all need both facts and emotions to make sense of our world, and charities harness the power of both to engage and inspire. 

As Alok Sharma, president of the Glasgow COP26, closed the summit, he showed his disappointment and his humanity.

Building a better future will only happen if we focus on a more positive story and continue to step up, speak out and work together.

Adeela Warley is chief executive of CharityComms

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