Communication Climate Change Effectively, with Leonard Sonnenshein – Ep #51

Leonard Sonnenshein is the Founder and Chief Scientific Officer for Salvation Farming Solutions, LLC and GrowFish LLC. He is also Co-Founder of the World Ocean Network. Leonard is a regular collaborator and consultant with international agencies such as UNESCO, UNDP, WHO, and the International Ocean Institute. 

Climate change can be a charged, controversial subject in the general public. Not everyone believes the effects are real or dangerous. How do scientists go about communicating scientific research to those who aren’t receptive to the subject matter?

Agriculture, despite being integral to feeding people around the world, has its own impact on climate change. The increased need for agriculture has led to an increased effect on the climate. The guest on this week’s episode is doing his part to alleviate this issue.

Leonard has a degree in biology and secondary education from the University of Missouri St. Louis, and a degree in biology and philosophy that he also earned from the University of Missouri St. Louis. 

What You’ll Hear On This Episode of When Science Speaks

[2:10] How Leonard communicates about climate change to an audience that might find the subject controversial

[5:11] How to be a better communicator of science

[9:47] The effects of agriculture on the climate, and how to improve the climate footprint of agriculture

[12:36] Leonard’s advice for entrepreneurs

[17:15] Working with the Yield Lab

[19:10] Changes in agriculture in recent years

[21:03] What Leonard is working on now

Connect with Leonard Sonnenshein

The Yield Lab

LinkedIn for Leonard Sonnenshein

Communicating the effects of climate change to those who find it controvertial

While the scientific community, for the most part, has a consensus on climate change, the general public is a little more divided. For many people, the subject is controversial, and aren’t very receptive to discussion on this important topic. So how do scientists broach the topic? What are the best ways to go about communicating scientific data in a way which will not turn some people off?

For Leonard Sonnenshein, as he points out in the interview, the way to reach a wider audience is to avoid the buzz words like “climate change”, and instead concentrate on the tangible effects of it. How has climate change affected your audience directly? If you are speaking to farmers, how has their ability to grow crops been altered? Will it affect their livelihood? Now, instead of a theoretical discussion about climate, it becomes something your audience can relate to. 

Improving agriculture’s climate footprint

Agriculture is central to feeding people around the world. As worldwide population grows, so does the need for a vast and efficient agriculture industry. With an increase in production comes an equally increased climate footprint. There is a log of pollution which comes from the industry, as Leonard points out in the interview. What can be done to alleviate these stresses on the environment?

Leonard has some ideas for that, as well. There are multiple ways to approach the issue, such as creating products which are based completely on nature so that there is little or no harm done. Another tactic is to grow products like corn which have more cobs per plant, increase the size of the kernels, and improve the plant’s ability to fight pests and disease. Reducing waste is another way to reduce the need to grow as much overall per capita.

Learn more about Leonard Sonnenshein and his work on this week’s episode of When Science Speaks.

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