Chapter 7 – Find Powerful Messengers

Doctors are one of the most trusted professions – when they speak, most of us listen. We found this campaign in Brazil fascinating, as they found a thoughtful way to empower local doctors to explain the issues with coal mining, and the impact it was having on local health. That in turn allows campaigners to link it with a need to bring about net zero.

SPOTLIGHT: BRAZIL - Empower people who can amplify your message 
‘The campaign works with doctors in small towns to create a base for net zero conversations, and to connect this with what’s happening in the community. They do this by having conversations with people where they ask, “What’s the problem?’ Then they ask, “What’s the cause?” They then work with people to identify the root cause of the problem. Once people see it, the importance of net zero becomes clear.

The campaign focuses on coal, because there is so much evidence that coal mining and coal-powered electricity generation is linked to health problems. The campaign brings this to life by talking about the problems and the health consequences of mining and using coal. The doctors are the ones who deliver the message that coal mining is no longer a viable option in terms of local health and climate change.

They are the ones who say that it’s something the local community should be thinking about, because coal mines are being shut down all over the world, so why should we try to hold on to it while everybody else is getting away from it?

I saw this in action a short while ago. I attended an event with, and there was a local doctor from a very small town in the middle of Brazil. He was the bearer of the message, and then there was another guy, a historian, who was researching the history of coal mines in these regions. He talked about all the labour problems and the accidents and the health problems in coal mines, and then I talked about net zero. So, net zero wasn’t an abstract term — there was a bridge between community health concerns, the labour issues, and then there was I talking about why net zero matters. I was quite surprised that the people who attended were from the local area, people who would never come to a climate change event.

This campaign really seems to be gathering power and influence. We know that local governors don’t really care about net zero, but they do care about voters, and what voters
are thinking about. The campaign is now putting pressure on state governors to get out of the coal business. What’s driving the campaign is that people don’t want to see the health problems that they have any more, and they don’t want to bet on an industry that’s dying all over the world and contributing to climate change and local pollution.’

Natalie Unterstell, Talanoa
Most environmental activists know that coal is a huge cause of climate harm. We particularly liked this example because it linked that understanding to local health issues — and who wouldn’t want their local community to be healthy?

It was interesting to learn how they’d figured out a way to make the local doctor the bearer of the message: and then to link that to the local historian who informed (and perhaps reminded) people about significant labour issues in the mines. These speakers combined broke down the abstract goal (net zero) into a relatable issue that attracted new audiences who otherwise wouldn’t have attended a climate change event.