UNC junior Jessica Reid watched clear-cutting and deforestation — major contributors to climate change — devastate the environment around her in Apex throughout her childhood.
Once she became more educated on the effects of climate change, Reid wanted to do her part to mitigate the impact. In September, she did just that by publishing her first book: “Planet Now: Effective Strategies for Communicating about the Environment.”
“From a young age, I became aware of how humans are impacting the environment,” Reid, who's part of UNC's environment and science communication program, said.
She began writing “Planet Now” in fall 2019 with partial funding from the 1789 Student Venture Fund. Reid also received assistance from the Creator Institute, a program that connects college students with professionals and resources to help them write and publish a book.
Greg Gangi, associate director for clean technology and innovation at the UNC Institute for the Environment, said climate change is often portrayed as a one-dimensional issue.
“It has been communicated largely through simply an environmental lens,” Gangi said. “We need new ways to communicate climate change to the American public.”
Jayne Willard, a junior majoring in biology and environmental studies at UNC and a friend of Reid's, said she thinks this book addresses that problem. Willard said Reid focused less on the science and more on strategies to stimulate conversation about climate change.
“The facts are out there,” Willard said. “She could have decided to say them again, but if you can’t get people to listen, agree and believe them, then it doesn’t matter.”
Reid said she wants her book to inspire others to take action to protect the environment through engaging in practical discussions with friends and family. She said the best method to do this is to try and connect these conversations to their values.
“If they’re concerned about the economy, then you could talk about how the impacts of climate change in the future will be more costly than to try to reduce the change that’s happening now,” Reid said. “So just helping people realize how important it is to try and prevent that.”
Willard said these discussions are essential to create a solution, and their absence allows people to gravitate toward extreme points of view.
“Being able to effectively communicate about a topic like this is important, because it’s so hard to get people to totally jump ship from, ‘I don’t think it’s real at all,’ to, ‘I believe strongly about it,’” Willard said. “But with the lessons from her book, it is a lot easier to push people who are open into the bin of thinking it’s important.”
Reid said bringing attention to those presently affected can also help reshape perspectives.
“Climate change is more likely to affect minority and low-income communities,” she said. “Helping people recognize these injustices is something that could inspire them to want to mitigate that.”
Reid said she recommends that students who wish to get involved in climate action join one of the numerous environmental organizations at UNC.
Gangi said he is proud of Reid’s own efforts and believes her decision to spread her ideals has helped reframe the message surrounding climate change.
“It’s part of an effort from many corners,” Gangi said, “to begin to break down this tribal barrier — this partisanship — and frame it in a way that people across the political spectrum will connect with.”
Reid hopes to pursue environmental communications consulting in the future and continue to teach others the best methods for discussing climate initiatives and goals.
“I want people to recognize that climate change is a people issue,” she said. “It’s about humans’ ability to live on the Earth. It’s important to take action, not just to protect endangered species, but to protect people. We should make sure climate change is treated as an issue that’s urgent, but not hopeless.”
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