Environmental Storytelling Can Help Spread Big Ideas For Saving The Planet


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Tackling climate change will require huge changes in society. Decarbonising energy, restoring habitat and making food supply sustainable are all critical, but methods for motivating these actions have typically taken the wrong approach – by highlighting the urgency of the issues and the disastrous consequences of failing to act.

Research increasingly suggests that trying to promote behavioural change through fear can be counterproductive, leading to anxiety or depression that results in an issue being avoided, denied or met with a sense of helplessness. However, in education, news and fiction, stories with positive role models and which focus on the positive outcomes of solutions are much more likely to inspire action to solve it.

The Power Of Positive Stories

I set out to explore the impact of such stories. As part of my research, 91 volunteers were given two stories to read, each concerned with the negative impacts of climate change: one about a woman caught in a flood and the other set at the end of the world.

The same readers were also exposed to two positive stories: one about a terrorist planting a flower bomb, which populates a bare area with flowers, the other about a young boy who, having watched Blue Planet, takes to collecting plastic to stop it entering the oceans – starting with his fish tank. Afterwards the readers were asked how the stories made them feel and to reflect on what kinds of behaviours they inspired.

While the negative stories motivated action for a few, most said they were discouraged. “I’d rather not think about it,” said one. “It made me angry and I switched off,” said another. Many also reported a sense of passive despair. “I felt hopelessness. If indeed, the heavy rain was caused by climate change, what can we do about it?”

However, there were no signs of avoidance among readers of the positive stories.

“It made me want to flower bomb land and do something positive and I felt happier after reading it,” said one reader.

“I felt inspired by the way the characters behaved … [the story] made me think about what I could do.”

This is concerning because almost all stories set in the future, whether in books, films or TV shows, are dystopian. The popular TV show Black Mirror tells cautionary tales about modern life and technology with often terrifying consequences. These stories elicit anxiety, pessimism and a feeling of passive fatalism.

Visions of a sustainable future can excite and inspire readers.I realised from my research that we desperately need cultural offerings with positive visions of what a sustainable society might look like, to inspire hope and positive change.

The University of Southampton runs writing competitions that ask people to read about green solutions and integrate them into stories. These ideas include replacing how much people buy, represented as GDP – the current measure of how successful society is – with a measure of well-being. Another looks at the potential of a “sharing economy”, in which more people borrow goods others have without needing to buy more themselves.

It can be hard for politicians to support green policies such as these when green issues evoke catastrophe in the minds of voters they’d rather not think about. Reframing issues in terms of their solutions and highlighting them through engaging characters and stories might be a more effective way to encourage change.

Love, Flowers And Insect Protein Bars

One winning short story was Come Help Me by Nancy Lord – a romance about an American fisherman and a Russian marine scientist.

The protagonist is inspirational and proactive: he spots a tension between the scientists concerned with the marine environment and the fisherman who needs to make a living. The writer finds a way to help them work together. We also loved the runner up, The Buildings are Singing, by Adrian Ellis, which made us laugh out loud.

This short story imagines a future world where buildings are alive – covered with photosynthesising plants which create energy, light and shade for the occupants. The flora operates an artificial intelligence system which helps occupants live sustainably. Insects drawn to the foliage become nourishing protein bars and life for the humans is low carbon and almost utopian – unless you do something wrong.

Some stories are specifically about sustainable societies, whereas others showcase ideas that would seem radical in otherwise familiar tales, such as Just in Case, which imagines a society where we borrow rather than buy much of our stuff. The woman who runs the “library of things” in the story, plays matchmaker with two customers who she can tell are compatible by their borrowing patterns.

The transition to a sustainable society requires profound changes, but to imagine how all of these aspects can come together is currently the domain of creative fiction. If we want a better world then the first step is to imagine one.The Conversation

Denise Baden, Associate Professor in Business Ethics, University of Southampton

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

See also:
Simple Ways We Can Start Fighting Climate Change
Can We Meet A Growing Need For Food Without Destroying Our Environment?

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April 23, 2019

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2nd and 4th Monday of every month This psychic message circle is for anyone wishing to raise their connection using their psychic centers known as the “clairs.” Learn how to use your...

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Messages From Heaven Healing and Learning Center
646 Central Street
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Leominster, MA
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This bill would require licensure for more than 100 holistic healing modalities under the broad definition of “bodyworks" it contains — “Bodywork”,...

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Massachusetts State House, Room 222
24 Beacon Street
Boston, MA
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Moth and Moon Studio
173 South River Road
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Open Circle Acupuncture & Healing
411 West Main Street, Suite 2R (rear of building)
Northborough, MA  01532
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With Jonathan Glass, Ayurvedic practitioner. Presenting a 28-day program designed to initiate and maximize detoxification and nourishment of your body, mind and soul, inspiring results that can...

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Concord, MA


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Discover how you can release tight muscles and improve range of motion in locked joints in a weekly ESSENTRICS stretch classes led by Raindrop Fisher, certified Essentrics instructor. Raindrop is a...

Cost: $10 drop-in / $100 for 12 classes

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Village at Waterman Lake
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Greenville, RI  02828
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Statehouse
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BrainHckr @ Union Wellness
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YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
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Sri Healing Arts
464 Marlboro Rd.
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Eastover Estate & Retreat
430 East Street
Lenox, MA  01240
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Dragonfly Wellness Center
176 Jackson Road
Devens, MA  01434
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Eye of the Eagle Center, private oceanside home
45 minutes north of Boston by rail or road
Gloucester, MA  01930
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Cost: $150, $175 after April 20th (see below for tickets)

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First Congregational Church
43 Silver Street
Greenfield, MA  01301
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Sponsor: Allen Howell, M.Ed. LMHC and Ellen Wolfe MS HTR
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Returning to the seacoast area for another delightful day to help support the Franco American Centre! Psychic readings, energy healing, marketplace and a great raffle! Free general...

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The Hampton Inn & Suites
59 Portsmouth Ave.
Exeter, NH  03833
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With Nancy Smith Starts Saturday, April 27, 2019 Learn to anchor into the Akashic Energy of Creation through meditation and prayer. Open to the Akashic energy and the records of the universe...

Cost: $860 (Early Bird $770)

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Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
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State of Grace Yoga
Uxbridge, MA


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Instructor: Lisa Abbate, CHt Adult Level Embrace your goals and dreams and take action! Give yourself permission to want what your heart desires!  Afterall, there is no...

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Creative Spirit
80 Washington Street
Marblehead, MA  01945
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Elm Park
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In conjuction with the release of his new video series on Yoga Anytime, Internationally recognized instructor Robert Sidoti takes the concept of his latest yoga program off the screen and into the...

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KJ Fitness
1565 Main Street Unit D
Tewksbury, MA  01876
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VFW Post 2597
775 Boston Rd, Rte 3A
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Cost: $295 early bird if paid by March 22nd ($325 after)

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YogaLife Institute of NH
6 Chestnut Street
Lower Level
Exeter, NH  03833
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Cost: $149, $10 lunch voucher included

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51 S. Main St.
Concord, NH
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Cost: Free admission

Where:
Taunton V.F.W.
82 Ingell Street
Taunton, MA  02780
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Cost: $1395

Where:
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Telephone: (802) 249-7551
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Where:
The Boston School of Herbal Studies
12 Pelham Terrace
Arlington, MA  02376
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Telephone: 781-646-6319
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April 27–28 Join other like-minded seekers as we take a journey through the concepts of the new Earth paradigm, higher self and soul sovereignty, ascension mechanics, and spiritual alchemy.

Where:
Derry, NH


Telephone: (617) 366-6042
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Beginner Class: 4/27 (6:00-10:00 pm), 4/29 (7:00-10:00 pm), 4/30 (7:00-10:00 pm) Intermediate Class: 5/1, 5/2, 5/3 (7:00 – 10:00 pm) Tuition: None, but donation is appreciated for...

Where:
16 South Road
Bedford, MA  01730
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