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Hunters and Anglers

Hunters and Anglers

Todd Tanner

“When environmental groups try to raise the climate issue with hunters and anglers, their messaging and framing are actually counter-productive,” Todd Tanner says. “They don’t sound right; they’re not part of the tribe. So sportsmen and sportswomen simply tune them out.”

Well, I understand that from personal experience. Many times, I’ve found that to be true and I share my experience with others who care about environmental issues. If someone in the group speaks out it packs a bigger punch. It’s based on trust and camaraderie. No one is going to listen if they don’t trust you or if they have established a strong opinion against a group for standing for a cause that doesn’t match with their beliefs, values or ideas.

Todd Tanner decided that as a writer and climate activist, he could try to break through to people who like him and trust him. He’s a well-known angler. In fact, he writes for outdoor magazines and shares advice on rivers, hatches and gear. If he recommends a fly rod, other anglers know they can trust his recommendation.

He isn’t conventional. In fact, he has used unconventional means when talking to a crowd of hunters to confront climate deniers who “hogged the podium.” He offers the crowd of hunters a free shotgun to anyone who could produce peer-reviewed evidence to back up the denial. According to Matt Miller, the director of science communications for The Nature Conservancy and editor of the Cool Green Science blog, Tanner hasn’t had to buy a single rifle for anyone yet.

People run around with their opinions on their sleeves and don’t care if what they say is true, because they want it to be true. That doesn’t make it true, but it certainly doesn’t force a person to do anything they don’t feel like and often that’s what he’s dealing with when faced with denial.

So, he spends a lot of time translating what he knows about climate science and climate change to people who are giving him the time of day. He uses evidence that touches upon issues that sports enthusiasts care about to get the message across. He uses examples they can relate to rather than problem areas like the Arctic.

I agree with him that there isn’t a one size fits all approach or message. It’s one of the reasons why this blog focuses on so many climate activists.

Since he already has respect and credibility among the fly fishing community, then he’s in a position to have assisted in increasing support of fly fishers around climate change. One thing that people can take away from his activism is that he truly believes that activists need to recognize who they can reach and that generic messages just don’t always make a big difference. Since he knows his community, they are going to give him the benefit of the doubt.

By the way, he founded Conservation Hawks. It’s an organization dedicated to getting hunters and anglers involved in climate change.

“What makes us different? We focus on the most important
issues for sportsmen. That’s why we’re leading the fight against
the biggest threat we’ve ever faced – CLIMATE CHANGE.”

He also took a lot of environmentalists to task in Forbes for focusing on remote issues like polar bears if they want to be effective with people who need to relate to the outdoors that they are exposed to near them if they’re going to care about climate change.

I especially find his “An open letter to America’s anglers” both provocative and effective in calling “bullshit” as he says. He calls out critics and deniers who cry ‘radical’ at anyone who cares about the rivers, the air, and the changing climate. Those who don’t want public lands sold off to private interests aren’t radicals either.

He writes:

“That’s right, we call bullshit. Because we aren’t radicals. And we’re getting tired of all these morally-bereft, intellectually-challenged, “greed is good” free market fundamentalists painting us as the exact opposite – the exact opposite – of what we really are.”

Read the whole thing, because he makes some excellent points. I’ve got it bookmarked for those days when I face another person subtly or not so subtly accusing people who care about responsible environmental actions of being extremists or radicals. Both of these words are just ways for someone to avoid giving a second thought to the concerns being raised that will harm the outdoors that sports enthusiasts can appreciate if they’re listening to someone they really actually trust.  It’s a way to invalidate the concern and also to disqualify someone from having determined there is something to be worried about when it comes to our impact on the environment.

To some it’s a non-starter, but for Tanner, given that he writes stories on climate change for outdoor magazines and his involvement as a sportsman, he’s got a better chance since he gets the community. He knows that people who only see profit bring in any number of people to instill “their trust” into and mean a very different thing.

I’m heartened to read about Tanner as a climate activist. I also hope he meets with much success in his communication where others have met with a communication breakdown.

To quote one of my favorite fly fishing stories,

“So it is that we can seldom help anybody. Either we don’t know what part to give or maybe we don’t like to give any part of ourselves. Then, more often than not, the part that is needed is not wanted. And even more often, we do not have the part that is needed.”
Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It

Sources: Cool Green Science, Hatch Magazine, Forbes, The Post-Standard Syracuse.com, High Country News, Sporting Classics, A River Runs Through It

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