writing compassionately to my Representatives in Government about climate change

In December last year, I wrote to my Prime Minister, Premier, Leaders of the Opposition and my Federal and State Members of Parliament about my hope that they may work with each other to make a positive difference to climate change. I had put this off for a while because the topic overwhelms me, and I find it hard to focus on one thing and not just ramble disjointedly about all the individual and combined issues that come to mind. Also, I have seen little evidence that politicians on either ‘side’ are willing to take action.

But this is an important issue, so I finally put my doubts aside and attempted to communicate succinctly and with clarity and compassion.  I wanted my concerns to be heard and to make a difference. I also wanted to hear what they had to say about the matter. To achieve this, I used a communication pattern presented in ‘the Ongo book: Everyday nonviolence.’

The pattern looks something like:

When I think about …

I feel … because

I need … therefore

my request is …

I was wondering why I only received one response – but re-reading the email I think I see why! If you can pick the problem let me know what you think it might be in the comments. I am hoping you will offer a few suggestions so that I might learn some more. ❤

My email regarding climate change

Heading: Request for swift and decisive action on climate change

Dear (title and name of politician),

I am Rowena McGregor, resident of Ipswich, Queensland within the State electorate of Ipswich, and Federal electorate of Blair.

I am writing to you because when I hear that scientists say we have a very limited time to act or face catastrophic climate chaos and in the next moment I hear that yet another mine has been approved by my governments and yet another catastrophic climate event is forming, I feel a sense of deep sadness, and sometimes, despair.

I would like to trust that the people representing me in government will act together in the best long-term interests of people everywhere by creating and enacting policy and legislation to ensure a healthy environment for all. I would also like to acknowledge that communities reliant upon the industries causing climate change need to be supported to create new opportunities for employment so that everyone can enjoy the dignity and benefits of rewarding work.

To this end, I would love to see all MPs working together to take swift and decisive action on climate change and helping our communities transition to a post-fossil fuel future.

That’s what I will be voting for.

Kind Regards,

Rowena McGregor.

— Leave me a comment if you have any feedback!

Rowena.

Reference and photo attribution

Brett Coulstock. Cracked earth [photo]. CC BY 2.0

Catherine Cadden & Jesse Wiens (2017) The ONGO book: Everyday nonviolence.

What to do about Christmas presents?

So Christmas has rolled around again and I am starting to feel uneasy about a little unresolved conflict that has been slowly developing over the last decade or so… what do we do about gift giving?

I know I am not the only one facing this dilemma, but for those of you without this problem, this is what it looks like in my family:

  • I would prefer to spare the earth’s resources and not give and receive gifts at all but this has not caught on.
  • One of my sisters gives practical, sustainable presents – but I’m not sure everyone receives them in the spirit they were given.
  • Some of my brothers and sisters travel from interstate or overseas. They may be concerned about their budget (and how much they must pack and take on the way home).
  • Some want presents given just to kids. Those without kids don’t see this as fair.
  • Some want their kids to have less presents as receiving a whole load of presents can be over-stimulating and can remove the focus from family time to competition.
  • Some enjoy the tradition of the tree surrounded by an absolute sea of presents and than watching everyone unwrap their gifts.

That is just the tip of the iceberg. With eight in my generation plus spouses, and eleven in the next generation, a consensus seems unlikely. But it is a really important issue to me and one I don’t want to give up on.

So now I’m preparing to start the conversation again for next Christmas and looking to use nonviolent communication to do this. Because there is an emotional charge around the conversation, the first thing I need to do is create space for empathy by considering what needs and values might underlie the various feelings and strategies around gift-giving.

Human needs of those who want to give and receive gifts

What values are people wanting to establish and maintain by giving and receiving gifts? What needs are they wishing to express? I came up with the following possibilities:

Connection, belonging, fun, love, joy, & self-expression

Human needs of those who are seeking an alternative to our current gift-giving practices

What values are people wanting to establish and maintain by not giving and receiving so many gifts? What needs are they wishing to express?

I came up with the following possibilities:

Sustainability, love, ease, peace, & self-expression

When I look at these lists I feel a bit more connected to those in my family who have different opinions to me. I can see that this is not an either-or situation – it is possible to belong to both groups. It is even interesting to see that the lists have love and self-expression in common.

a conversation guided by nonviolent communication principles

There are many nonviolent communication resources that can help resolve a conflict. I’m working my way through the ONGO Book at the moment, so I will try out the pattern they suggest. This looks something like

When I see|hear|experience ….

I feel ….

Because I would love to be have|experience ….

Would you consider….

So I might start a conversation like this:

When I see all the Christmas presents piled under the tree and imagine all the paper and plastic wrappings that must be thrown away, I feel uneasy and sad because I’d like to do Christmas in a way that is warm and fun and does not create a lot of waste – and I have not figured out a way to do that.

Do you think we might do Christmas a little differently next year so that we can have fun and  be kind to the environment?

Note

I was going to add a list of strategies we might consider BUT it would totally undermine the conversation if I was to come prepared with all the answers. I need to slow down and let any answers (if there are any) arise in the conversation.

More on the ONGO Book

This really seems to be an excellent resource. There is a whole rich, deep element of being connected to your body as you go through this process that I have not written about. If you are interested in nonviolent communication I recommend you get a copy. Maybe for Christmas 🙂

Catherine Cadden & Jesse Wiens (2017) The ONGO book: Everyday nonviolence.

Photo attribution

Frank Tellez. Christmas Presents. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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