Why Climate Humor is Important
If you want people to be open to your message, you must first make a personal and emotional connection with them.*
But making that connection requires being aware of -- and honest about -- your own feelings. Exactly what emotions are you inviting people to share? What if you are feeling sadness, despair or anger? "Come mourn with me" is a stingy invitation few will accept. "Please join in this losing fight" is not much better.
One answer: humor. It is the ultimate stress releaser and coping mechanism in the face of painful realities beyond our control. Shared laughter is a great way to connect. Have you ever found yourself laughing involuntarily at somebody's jokes, even though you disagree with their views? In such as situation, we "just can't help liking the guy/gal," at least a little, because laughter feels good, and shared laughter feels even better. It opens us up to listening, at least temporarily.
As science fiction writer Isaac Asimove once remarked (via Brian Ettling's blog 12/16/11),
"Jokes of the proper kind, properly told, can do more to enlighten questions of politics, philosophy, and literature than any number of dull arguments."
For more thoughts on the importance of humor, see the linked articles below.
A side note to public speakers: Why do speakers so often begin with a joke? Why does it take so little to get an audience to at least chuckle, right at the beginning? Because the start of any speech is a minor social crisis, fraught with potential for uncomfortable feelings on either side of the podium (embarassment, boredom, anger, frustration and more). When a new speaker gets up before a hostile group, you can feel the tension build. That tension begs for release, so you don't have to be a professional commendian to get a laugh. Sometimes, a shared laugh can get even a grumpy audience to lighten up.
The Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media puts it this way:
"Comedy may be able to make inroads with audiences in ways that 'serious journalism' often cannot." (Keith Kloor, 9/30/11)
"Who knows? Humor just may be the silver bullet, the key to unlocking the communication brick walls standing in the way of that more informed citizenry so critical in a democracy." (Bud Ward, 5/18/11)
* OK. The rarified air of an academic conference may be a partial exception. But even there, you'll do better if you find a way to make a personal connection with the audience.
Why do it? Because, "gets people in the room" and makes them more open to hearing your message
This interview with "stand-up economist" Yoram Bauman, by Bud Ward, the always thoughtful editor of Yale's Forum on Media and Climate Change, makes a powerful case for humor as a communication tool.
If Bauman can make micro-and macro-economics funny, why not climate change?
A lot has been written about how, if you want people to be open to hearing your message, you need to first make a personal and emotional connection with them.
But what if you are really feeling a sense of tragic loss or despair about the destruction of nature's wonders? "Come mourn with me" is a stingy invitation that few will accept. "Let's fight this losing battle together" is not much better.
John Fraser is a psychologist who specialized in the mental health of conservationist, who think about environmental destruction every day. He is interviewed here about coping with feelings of tragic loss. Toward the middle, he mentions comedy as an antidote.