Last month at COP, the annual United Nations climate conference, I had the opportunity to deliver a series of talks about climate communication. What really stuck with me about the experience is the commonality in questions people asked afterwards, both with raised hands in front of an audience, and in hushed tones, one-on-one. 

It will probably come as no surprise that people who devote their lives to addressing climate change told me they are exhausted. But they also told me they are worried they are doing it wrong, or maybe even not doing enough. Those conversations hit close to home. 

Just before I left for COP, I met with a longtime mentor to discuss these very same concerns. I wondered if, maybe because I am not an academic, I don’t know how to navigate higher education? Or, maybe I am expending my energy on an impossible set of projects? My mentor, deeply accomplished and experienced, told me they have asked themselves the same questions about knowing systems; they too have wondered if they were doing it right. I was astonished but also comforted to know that someone operating on the level of my mentor could ever have the same concerns as me. 

At COP, I responded to questions about hitting the mark with my own stories about those fears, as well as some ideas for creating systems to make getting the work done a little easier. For example, I create templates whenever possible. As I regularly deliver talks, I base almost all of them off a ten slide presentation that I modify for each audience. I have also created a training menu that includes each of the Climate Center’s offerings so that I have a document I can easily send out summing up our work in that area. Lastly, on the suggestion of my mentor, I recently began using Doodle to manage my office hours appointments with students.

I hope these little tips helped, but mostly, I hope I was able to convey encouragement for the incredible work these organizers are creating to transform farming, waste management, education, and more. The back and forth I had with people on the front lines reminded me, as ever, of the value of community, of being able to connect with others through shared experience. I felt understood and I hope that those I had the opportunity to speak with felt the same. 

COP will always be most notable as a venue for climate change decision making. But, I’d argue it can be more than that. It can be a place where we share with each other the emotional sustenance we need to carry on with our work. When the needle doesn’t move like we want it to and when the late nights pile up, I hope we can remind ourselves of those moments we connect with others. Climate change is a monumental issue. We will not solve it overnight, nor alone. 

Allison Agsten is the director of the Center for Climate Journalism and Communication.