Listening can make things happen, says environmentalist and documentary filmmaker Dayna Reggero. When you listen — really listen — you provide a space for the speaker to make discoveries, connections and critical shifts.
To shift the conversation around climate change, Reggero has been crisscrossing the United States, listening. She asks individuals and families to talk about the climate impacts they’re experiencing — and the climate solutions they’re coming up with. She films these conversations so that others can listen too. This is the Climate Listening Project, one of the goals of which is creating connection around a topic that usually results in sharp divides.
The Revelator asked Reggero about the Climate Listening Project and how we can move forward in our conversations about climate change.
How did the Climate Listening Project come about?
I started the Climate Listening Project in 2014 while collaborating with Sierra Club on the “Years of Living Dangerously” docu-series and after my community experienced the most rain on record in 2013. I wanted to hear the stories of people dealing with climate impacts and people creating climate solutions. I filmed the stories so others could listen as well.
What’s surprised you about it so far?
I’ve been surprised to continue collaborating with new groups to follow more and more stories over the past four years. I wasn’t expecting to film a rabbi and priest for the “Faith” video, a Republican congressman working with women for climate solutions as part of “The Story We Want” web series, or a South Carolina farmer of the year for the “Cultivating Resilience” series — and the list goes on.
Have you encountered any roadblocks? How did you overcome them?
I think the idea that we have to choose a side on climate action because of our current political divide is the biggest roadblock in the United States. I overcome this by listening. I follow the connections that bring people together. I have found that when we really listen to each other, there is more that connects us than divides us. Through my films, I try to follow connections people can relate to so they can see someone like them, who cares about the same things they care about, and create opportunities for listening parent to parent, person of faith to person of faith, farmer to farmer, business person to business person, and so on.
Who do you think needs to open up their ears and hear these stories, either individually or as a group?
I think if people listen to their neighbors who are dealing with the same climate impacts they are experiencing, we can connect the dots and have real dialogue about climate solutions locally. The reality is that people are already experiencing impacts from climate change — and people need to know that they’re not alone.
The other reality is that people are creating mitigation and adaptation solutions — and people need to know that there are actions they can take for their families and communities.
What should we all be listening for, in terms of climate and communication?
I think we just need to listen to the real people dealing with climate impacts and the real people creating solutions. I have found that people are relieved to have a safe space to share their climate stories. It’s time for honest communications about how we can protect the people we care about, the things we need, the things we love and the places we call home.