When you think of environmental activism, what roles do stories play? Activism can look like signs, protests, board meetings, and policy shifts addressing tangible institutional problems – but the harder issues to touch upon are the insidious cultural norms which are subconscious parts of our everyday life. Our world is formed by stories. Our relationships, our beliefs, and our daily experiences are defined by the stories we hear and the stories we tell. So it follows that changing the way we tell our stories can consequently change the world: but how to do so? One way is through communication, a method of change-making that we engage in every day. How we speak about climate change and our reasons for caring about the planet can have far-reaching impacts. Practicing empathetic speaking and listening can build bridges over the seemingly-impassable divide between political and ideological groups. We all have a story, regardless of what political and scientific beliefs are. We all have sorrow, joy, and reasons for who we are. Connecting to each others’ stories and practicing personal and broad-scale storytelling can be tools for individual and global shifts.
On Thursday, March 22nd, Lauren de la Parra’s Climate Reality storytelling workshop was an essential step to bring awareness to how we’re creating the world. She introduced the “elevator pitch” as a proven way to quickly synthesize and communicate information about ourselves and our beliefs. This can be as simple as the “and, but, therefore” formula, in which an entire story arch can be encapsulated in just one sentence. Lauren asked participants to formulate their own journeys to environmental action through this method.
“When I allow myself, I connect to nature on a transcendental level
And experience an almost maternal desire to care for and protect it.
But even I am terrified of climate change and close myself off emotionally
Therefore, I want to help people (and myself) reconnect to nature, for the sake of the present and the future.”
Another student, Karen Marquis, shared her creative version:
“My Dad can’t wait for warmer winters with less shoveling,
And the thought of this keeps me up at night puzzling.
But I plan to help stop species from fading away,
Therefore I’m grateful that he got me to where I am today.
Although this activity proved to be challenging, I believe in its power. Expressing why we care about something is infectious. Talking about what’s important to us can inspire a ripple effect that spreads throughout social networks. Next time you’re having a conversation with someone, try asking them: What’s your story? Listening to someone tell their story open-heartedly can be an opening to connect in new ways to people, nature, and yourself.
Lauren de la Parra, Climate Reality Corps Leadership facilitator
and UMass graduate student in Sustainability Science.