Anisa Nanavati (she/her) is a 17 year-old climate activist that was born and raised in Tampa, Florida. She is currently a sophomore that attends Academy at the Lakes in rural Land O’Lakes which is thirty minutes away from the City of Tampa.
As a result of living in a frontline community, Anisa has seen the direct results of climate change. The temperatures are always reaching record highs, the displacement of many because of rising sea levels is increasing, the amount of deadly storms that endanger her community are surging, and the threat of losing her only home is looming. The mangroves and trails, the rich biodiversity, and Tampa’s signature beaches are all threatened by the climate crisis. These reasons compelled her to co-found Earth Uprising where she is currently the North American Coordinator. Anisa’s activism includes plans to educate members of her community about the threats of the climate crisis and promote understanding among all regardless of party alignment. She has helped organize events in her community and has spoken at climate strikes in the Tampa Bay Area, and plans to do much more in the future.
Indi Howeth (IH): Why is it important to have conversations about climate change with family?
Anisa Nanavati (AN): It is important to have conversations about climate change with family because of the large-scale misinformation about climate change that is prevalent in society. By having conversations about climate change you are able to break through these barriers of misinformation by even providing informal education about climate change. One conversation leads to another, and then another.
IH: Why do you think climate denial is so prevalent?
AN: Climate denial is prevalent because corporations have utilized their influence to ensure that climate change is a political issue. Believing in climate change is not a stance, it is simply a fact. This rhetoric has been spread throughout the United States and has created a culture of climate denial.
IH: How do you most effectively combat climate denial?
AN: The most effective way to effectively combat climate denial is to have conversations that engage both the believer and the denier. Through a simple conversation, one can completely change another’s worldview and shine a light on the misinformation and misconceptions that have been fed to them.
IH: How do you begin a conversation about climate change with your family?
AN: The most important aspect of an effective climate conversation with family is understanding and removal of any hostile language. People are less open to what you have to say when you antagonize and villainize them. It is important to be mature, open-minded, and to use personal connections and appeals to achieve your goals.
IH: What do you do when you are met with disbelief and rejection?
AN: Meeting rejection can be incredibly difficult, but it is important to understand that you cannot be successful every time. You must keep having these conversations because even if you only change the mind of one person, the impact that you will have on them is extremely valuable.
IH: How do you overcome the fear and anxiety of having necessary conversations about something you know the other person disagrees with you about?
AN: One thing that helps with anxiety and fear, is to be educated. It is hard to disprove or reject facts and opinions that come from credible sources. When you are educated, it also makes the other person take you more seriously because it is evident that you are invested in and educated about the topic.
IH: Being from Florida, what is it like to live somewhere which has a reputation for climate denial?
AN: Florida is a unique place. We are comprised of both Republicans and Democrats alike. One thing that almost unites every Floridian is their love for nature. As more former climate deniers are renouncing their beliefs, the path towards believing in climate change is clearing and personally, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
IH: How do you get your family to support your activism past conversations?
AN: Whenever I have events or other engagements, I encourage them to attend or even speak with me. It has been incredible to see how much they incorporate climate activism into their lives, and my dad will often send me articles or give me documentary recommendations!
IH: Politics can be a touchy subject for all families. Do you think it is important to talk to family specifically about the kind of politicians and policy they support in regards to climate action? Why or why not?
AN: I think it’s incredibly important to talk to family about the stances that their politicians take on climate. Conversations bring awareness and education. Oftentimes, a family member may not have even considered the issue of climate change and may then have the motivation to do more research. It is important to talk to adults that can vote, especially if you are a young person, as it is one of the most impactful ways that you can get your views expressed in American democracy.
Meeting rejection can be incredibly difficult, but it is important to understand that you cannot be successful every time.
IH: Does it ever feel weird to have a serious conversation with a family member you might not be as close with? How do you navigate feeling awkward?
AN: It can feel weird, but the best way to have these conversations is to talk about how these issues impact your life and experiences. If a distant relative asks you what you’ve been up to recently, you can talk about how you’ve recently become interested in climate change! This makes these conversations infinitely less awkward.
IH: Movements are built on collective action. How do you inspire people to move from having a conversation about climate change to taking positive climate action?
AN: Like I said earlier, I encourage friends and family to events and engagements. I encourage them to have conversations of their own. I also constantly update my social media about local issues and events and how they can get involved. You can also encourage them to send letters to local representatives and take collective action on social media as well!
IH: Let us know anything else you’d like to share!
AN: Climate education can take place in schools, but one of the most important ways it takes place is informally through conversations! It is essential that we have them.
All photos courtesy of Anisa Nanavati
Answers may have been edited for length
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