CCLers connect with conservatives at local hunting and fishing event
By Katie Zakrzewski
On Sept. 25, South Carolinians celebrated National Hunting and Fishing Day with a large outdoor family event organized by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. The event, which attracted a large conservative crowd, was also attended by CCL volunteers from the local S.C. Greenville chapter.
“South Carolina is a very conservative state. We’re always thinking about how to welcome more conservatives into our chapters and encourage them to come to lobby meetings,” said Charlotte Ward, CCL State and Local Media Coordinator who also volunteers as a group co-leader for the Greenville chapter. “We know that hunting and fishing is a pastime that attracts a lot of conservatives who really care about the environment and how it is changing, so we wanted to be able to get out and talk to them.”
Charlotte, accompanied by her chapter co-lead Constantine Khripin, volunteer Lauraleigh Bush, and fellow chapter members John Beckerle and Bill Harclerode, set up a table at the event with a posterboard.
The posterboard depicted the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication study graph of belief and concern regarding climate change.
Charlotte shares that attendees were invited to stick a pushpin on the area of the chart that best aligned with their beliefs. The board drew attendees to the table, who were urged to identify their position with a pin, reassured that there was no wrong answer.
Attendees share their experiences
“We weren’t there to push our opinion. We were there to listen,” Charlotte says. “And it was really interesting to hear what people had to say.”
Many attendees shared that they needed to learn more about climate change.
“Some attendees would tell me, ‘I’ve noticed more things like strange weather events, and so I do think something’s happening, but I need to learn more.’ That was a great opportunity for us to ask them about the concerns they had and the things they’d seen.”
Lauraleigh noted that most participants seemed to be concerned about climate change.
“Cautious was the most common response, but the overall trend was that people were concerned about climate change,” she says. “So the first three dots on the chart got the most pins, which I felt was really encouraging.”
Charlotte shares that the table had plenty of helpful flyers, sign up information, financial information about the Inflation Reduction Act, and coloring sheets for passersby.
Lauraleigh notes that this was a notable event because of the crowd it drew.
“People came a long way for this event. There were people who told us they had come from the coast, so they’d driven for over three hours to get there. We had people come from as far as Georgia, and had a lot of nice conversations. It was really nice to get peoples’ perspectives.”
Charlotte emphasizes this by sharing a conversation with one attendee in particular.
“One man was telling us that he’d cut his vacation short because he wanted to go trout fishing. But trout need cool water, and if you catch and release trout when the water is too warm, they get too stressed and can die. So he was telling us that he couldn’t fish this time around, so he saw his recreational hobbies and vacation directly impacted by climate change.”
Other attendees shared their stories, too: a former Coast Guard member recalled the impact of climate change in Haiti, while a gardener lamented that the lack of frost meant a lack of peaches.
Constantine shared that engagement from curious children usually helped break the ice with people as well.
“Sometimes the kids would come over to color and stick a pin in our poster board. That made a lot of parents re-evaluate.”
Tabling at events like this is important not only for CCL to be visible in the community and at conservation events, but to figure out where civilians, outdoor enthusiasts, and conservatives are located on the climate change concern spectrum.
“This event was helpful because many people told us that they were concerned, that they wanted to learn more and read more, and needed more ideas on how to get involved,” Charlotte said. “This event gives us a place to start.”
Setting up the event
The idea for the South Carolina tabling event came from a similar event that Oregon volunteers held.
Oregon volunteers, led by CCLer Jerry Porter, tabled at the Harney County Fair in a conservative part of the state.
“We put a lot of effort into learning how to engage a conservative group. We had tabling signs with prominent conservatives. We approached people instead of waiting for them to come to the table to ask them to share their thoughts on the climate issue. We asked them to put a pin in the Six Americas board [that the South Carolina chapter also used]. We offered a free ticket for a drawing to thank them for taking the time to talk to us,” Jerry recalls. “We had absolutely no hostility. We heard a lot of skepticism about human-based climate solutions and various solutions. We mostly listened and asked questions on the first day, then realized we could respectfully share our views and information the second day.”
Charlotte mentions that the initiative taken by Oregon volunteers was immensely helpful for her.
“The Oregon volunteers were really helpful in planning, as they had already done a lot of leg work.”
While showing up to the event to table was Charlotte’s idea, Lauraleigh worked alongside the chairwoman of the event, Angela Viney, to hammer out the details.
“Angela was one of the people most interested in our table because she is part of an environmental group in Spartanburg. She was interested in us, and invited us to visit with her organization as well.”
Angela emphasized the importance of outdoor conservation and sports in a press release about the event.
“National Hunting and Fishing Day remains the most effective grassroots efforts ever undertaken to promote outdoor sports and conservation,” said Angela. “We look forward to this event every year. It is a great opportunity for the community to come and enjoy the great outdoors in a safe, educational environment with family and friends.”
Charlotte shares that while the table faced some skepticism, there was no hostility.
“It was really positive to see that climate change and the problems that come from a warming world are filtering through to most people. They’re making the connection. A lot of people shared that they weren’t too sure if there was anything that they could be doing, and that’s why I think it was helpful for us to be there.”