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Posted - 08/07/2014
In the Nation's Heartland, Voices Converge on Climate Change by Bob Keefe
E2 - Environmental Entrepreneurs Bob Keefe is the executive director of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). Bob reflects on their recent "pause" and entwines us in the tapestry created by the coming together of such diverse participants.

The farmer, the warrior, the football player, the former small-town mayor, the entrepreneurs and the rest of us came together from every part of the country to the middle of the nation's heartland. Over two days, the differences between us faded away like green in the summertime corn.

Thanks to Invoking the Pause, we were all able to set aside precious time and focus for just a moment in our lives on one of the most simple, most important but most ignored components of good communications: Effectively telling our own stories.

What we quickly realized was that whether we come from the left, the right or the center of our country, our individual stories are powerful tools for advocacy for action on climate change. Woven together, they represent a quilt of American narrative that illustrates better than any poll or policy paper or statistic how climate change affects each of us in every part of the country, and - just as importantly - how we can do something about it.

Our farmer, for instance, told how he was late to our retreat because he was dealing with unprecedented rain and flooding in his South Dakota fields.

The warrior from New York recounted his tale of burying his Army brothers in arms from the war in Iraq, and realizing that clean, renewable energy was key to national security. He bonded, quite naturally, with the former Navy SEAL turned solar entrepreneur who had similar experiences.

The energy efficiency executive talked about the local family butcher shop that nearly closed because of high overhead costs before she helped dramatically reduce the family's monthly energy bill; while the evangelical told how he started talking about climate change because of the need to protect what God has given us.

The businessman from Boston and the football player from Iowa City explained how they got into the solar and energy efficiency businesses, motivated by both planetary stewardship and the potential for profits.

Thanks to Invoking the Pause, we were able to create a unique and unprecedented experience in which we could collaborate and develop our individual stories together. By doing so, we learned from each other and from the professional communications consultants we brought in to facilitate the discussions. We then took our newly honed stories and began to share them with lawmakers, journalists and others who can facilitate change.

These national leaders, we know, have seen all the statistics, the facts, the polls and the projections about climate change. What they need to hear are the stories of Americans from every part of the country who want action on climate change for environmental, economic and other reasons, and how and why these individuals are making a difference.

Communications researcher Jonathan Gottschall, author of "The Storytelling Animal" explains it this way:
"Humans simply aren't moved to action by 'data dumps,' dense PowerPoint slides, or spreadsheets packed with figures. People are moved by emotion. The best way to emotionally connect other people to our agenda begins with "Once upon a timeā€¦"

Once upon a time, in the middle of our nation's heartland, a unique group of individuals from around the country took a pause from their daily work to come together to talk about climate change, communications and telling good stories.  Together, driven by passion, determined by resolve, equipped with good stories, we can move the country to action on climate change.
-Bob Keefe is executive director of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2).