Lisa Bennett

What Climate Activists Can Learn From the Gay Rights Movement

A diverse movement if ever there was one, the gay and lesbian movement has been the most successful movement in recent American history. What lessons can sustainability and climate strategists learn from this model of success? This talk will present five surprisingly relevant lessons. Based on an analysis of the two movements, it will reveal that for individuals and communities, there are similar challenges to overcome. Both movements, for example, challenge a prevailing sense of what is natural—or accepted truth about how people are, or how the world works. Both movements confront dynamics of denial (in oneself and from others.) Both movements inspire fear and the common dynamic of fight or flight. And, it will be argued, both movements involve a similar trajectory toward effective change that includes breaking the silence or coming out on what, in the case of climate change, remains for many a taboo topic; building a spirit of hope and pride rather than doom and gloom; and rising above divisive debates by putting the focus on real people and the basic human connections among those who are or will be most affected.

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