With the White House showing signs it’s aligning with climate-change deniers, those who acknowledge the crisis ahead are facing a tough battle. But it’s a battle they can win, if they use the marriage equality strategy as their playbook.
California energy commissioner David Hochschild was the architect behind Proposition B, a $100 million initiative to put solar panels on public buildings in San Francisco. He points to the rapid progress on the freedom to marry as a roadmap for work on climate change.
“There was gay marriage nowhere until 2004, then we saw that state by state by state by state it got adopted, and now of course it’s in all 50 states. Over a very short period of time.” Hochschild said in a seminar at Stanford last week. “You go back 12, 13 years, and ask how many people think gay marriage is universal and I think most people would assert, ‘it’s not going to happen.’”
The key? Making an emotional connection: America moved quickly toward accepting same-sex marriage because advocates framed the issue around love. How could anyone deny two people who loved each other?
“Climate change is the same thing,” insists Hochschild. “It’s about loving the next generation, and I think that is a good way to think about it.”
He should know: Hochschild’s team got voters to approve his solar-panel referendum by a whopping 73% by finding out what environmental issue struck a chord the most. Clean air was the big winner, so the project was called the “Clean Air, Clean Energy” initiative.
A sense of futility can be poisonous to environmental activism, so it’s important to remember other advances that have seen a swift turnaround—smartphones, non-smoking laws, even gluten-free foods.
“In spite of all the turmoil that is going on, we are in an age of enormous potential change, and we’re seeing that with technology and policy.”