Turning the Biggest Challenge of Our Time from Overwhelming to Empowering, All with a Simple Hand Sign: #ClimateSign

Article: Hadley Greswold, Executive Director, Climate Sign Campaign

I was a college sophomore when I read “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” by Bill McKibben, an exposé on the most in-depth climate science of 2012. The idea of an
overheated world overwhelmed me, and I broke down to my boyfriend that night. I sought comfort, hope, and reassurance that a positive future was still within grasp. Instead, he confirmed my worst fears: “Yup, we’re screwed. And there is nothing you can do about it.”

His words kept playing over in my mind. “Is he wrong about climate change?” I asked a friend. “Surely people can fix this.”
“I don’t know…” she replied helplessly.

I felt my confidence draining.

Everything changed in 2014 when I attended the People’s Climate March in NYC. As a diverse crowd of four hundred thousand rallied in the streets, my spirits lifted. “What if we could amplify this call to climate action?” I exclaimed to a friend. What we needed was a symbol that would resonate across barriers of language, culture, and geography the way the peace sign had after the Vietnam War. We needed a globally recognized icon for climate action; we needed a climate sign.

The first time I held a climate sign brainstorming session, I clasped my shaking hands behind my back. What if everyone thought this idea was stupid? What if no one cared? “Stop it,” I told myself. “You’re an adult. You can face this challenge and take ownership of your future.”

“I need your brilliant ideas,” I explained to the attendees. “The climate hand sign must be positive and unifying.” My peers looked down at their hands hesitantly. But then, slowly, they began moving their fingers, toying with climate sign ideas with growing confidence. I realized this was probably the first time anyone had asked them to take an active part in shaping their future. They felt just as isolated and overwhelmed by the current climate rhetoric as I had, and now they had a taste of empowerment. And it tasted good.

Instantly, the millennial movement began. A multinational climate sign team emerged. We collected ideas from across the globe. The top twelve ideas were vetted internationally, and we nixed several of the hand signs due to their alternative connotations in other cultures. When a member of the deaf community commented, “Option 6 means ‘d’ in American Sign Language,” we knew we had struck gold.

This sign could not only speak to a broader audience but also represent “decarbonization,” the transition away from fossil fuels that is key to addressing climate change.

With the new climate sign and the accompanying hashtag #ClimateSign, the team has launched Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram platforms; established public venue exhibits; and ran university-based campaigns across the US. This month we will release climate sign ads, and in December the climate sign will be projected on the Eiffel Tower for the 2015 United Nations Climate Conference in Paris.

The positive response to the climate sign has been incredible. Worldwide, people have shared climate sign selfies and raised the sign at speeches, organizational assemblies, social gatherings, and farmers markets. The widespread uptake of the climate sign is cultivating a social norm of climate action while fostering support for climate groups and progressive leaders.

Furthermore, it is empowering my generation to talk about climate change in our own language. We are tired of hearing that we are doomed by the “climate crisis.” We are a driven, innovative, and collaborative generation, ready to reframe climate change as “the climate challenge.” Through this challenge, we see an opportunity to influence humanity’s progress and take ownership of our future.

The climate sign is a unifying and positive declaration of this determination, and we raise it with enthusiasm. Join the millennial movement today by sharing your selfie with the climate sign and the hashtag #ClimateSign. Together, we are powerful.

Comments are closed.