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Climate CoLab Winners’ Spotlight of DearTomorrow: “Promises for the Future” on Climate

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Winners of the 2016 Climate CoLab “Shifting Behavior for a Changing Climate” contest, “DearTomorrow,” are using the latest insights from social science to build climate awareness. Founded by Jill Kubit of New York and Trisha Shrum of Colorado, DearTomorrow is combating a major hurdle in climate action–making the issue feel personal and directly relevant to people’s day-to-day lives.

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To begin to address this barrier, DearTomorrow built a “time capsule” in the form of an online platform where people can submit letters, photos and videos addressed to their youngest loved ones, about their promises to take action on climate change. DearTomorrow compiles these such that children or grandchildren will able to view them when they grow-up, and others, today, can be inspired. That’s why DearTomorrow not only stores the messages, but also curates them in order to promote the best ones on their social media feeds. Shared, these “promises to the future” reach thousands, further elevating awareness about climate change.

The process essentially connects climate change to people’s core identities and priorities, thus increasing its personal relevance. Knowing that their children will have the opportunity to read these letters helps drive people’s commitment to act.

Since winning the Climate CoLab contest, the team has gained significant recognition for its work, including being highlighted in a TedTalk, on Vox, and as a featured action on Leonardo DiCaprio’s climate film “Before the Flood” website. Additionally, they have had success in spreading the word on social media; one of their Facebook videos was viewed more than 115,000 times. The team said people’s feedback has been overwhelming, such as the comment from a participant, “DearTomorrow has triggered a ton of significant improvements in our day-to-day lives.”

In addition, the idea has academic merit. Team member, Trisha Shrum, brought scientific rigor to the “DearTomorrow” project through her dissertation at the Harvard John F. Kennedy School of Government. She also found that writing a DearTomorrow letter significantly increases actual donations to a climate change non-profit (Shrum, 2016).

 

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-10-07-53-amThe idea for DearTomorrow, however, came not from her research, as Trisha narrates in their Climate CoLab proposal video: “I was inspired by Christiana Figueres, the Head of the UNFCCC, when her daughter asked her what she did about climate change. I thought about what I would say about my own daughter Eleanor, she was 10 month old at that time. I opened my laptop and wrote a letter for her to read when she was grown. As I wrote this letter, I realized that all this work I do for climate change is for her.”
 

Jill and Trisha are already thinking ahead. As a next step, they want to develop a platform that uses high-level data science to recommend to users individually-selected climate actions for behavioral change. In order to realize their ambitious goals, DearTomorrow is currently organizing a crowdfunding campaign, and you can support them here. Over time, they would like to identify an institution or platform who can host the letters long-term.

 

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