I started talking on NYC subway cars, thanking people for using public transportation. It was kind of a lame move, but I wanted people to remember that public transport helps keep the city moving without putting a whole lot more cars on the street. It was definitely an act of desperation and has gotten pretty much no support.

In rethinking this, I came to a better idea. I am now interviewing people about the environment. I don’t ask loaded questions if I can help it, just open-ended things like what images do you associate with the environment, and what sort of connection do you see between your social and religious/spiritual upbringing and the environment. Stuff like that.

I’ve learned some amazing things, like how bad the air is in Jawalpindi, Pakistan, and how powerful planting a tree in the back yard can be, and how teenaged girls are eager to say whatever comes to their mind about the environment, calling it “roadkill” or “an abundant willow tree” or “the circumstance that influences all our decisions.” I have learned that the environment is seen as great beauty, but also extreme cold. It is amazing and harsh, and people love its animals and its trees and they know about its causes.

The key is and always will be getting the conversation on the right topic: the environment, that part of the world that we all share. It includes a lot, so conversation can go in a lot of directions, just keep listening.

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