The latest climate change report is grim. Faced with an alarming and uncertain future, we need hope and ideas more than ever. Those of you who have been with me a while will know that I fell over earlier this year – exhausted and demoralised. The things that need doing are so numerous, and overwhelming while my feelings of powerlessness have been growing. Turn on the news any day and the reasons to despair are many.
In the last few weeks I’ve been reading “Storytelling for a Greener World” (Hawthorn Press). Essays from many practitioners, exploring story, environment, action, community and hope. Most especially hope. Running through the book were clearly expressed beliefs that it is worth trying and that there is scope for hope. Methods for moving forward and reasons not to give up were abundant. In fact a big part of what this book is about, is inspiring and uplifting people, and how to reach out to others with story to create a vision of a better world.
The stories we tell ourselves and each other inform our life choices. The future we imagine, or fear, shapes how we live and the choices we make. Our beliefs shape the future we are jointly creating. This often leads to me feeling that I should keep silent when I’m struggling – no one else needs to be brought down by my anxiety, when up-beat, hopeful narratives would be so much more use. However, this book includes tales of extinctions. Not all stories have happy endings. Some are uncomfortable. If we can only tell each other happy tales of a lovely future in which it’s all going to be great, we risk creating a new framework for disenchantment and disbelief. Life after all, is never perfect and if we try to sell ourselves utopian imagery, we tap into our own awareness of how that begets dystopian outcomes.
The future is uncertain. We could make something better. There will be many challenges. We are going to need each other. It is quite reasonable to be afraid. If we share that we can overcome it.
There are no magical restoratives and no sure fire ways of setting the world to rights. What this book did, was to remind me of a most fundamental thing: We are story telling creatures. We build our communities, our cultures, our social systems and our futures out of the stories we tell each other about who we are, what we’re doing and what the priorities should be. We all get to participate in those stories, but, because stories are things we make up, reflections and interpretations of the world, there are always other options.
The big story passed round online for some years now is ‘keep calm and carry on’. We’ve got to ditch that and start making radical changes. Maybe we need to get angry with those in power, or at least cross enough to stop letting them dictate everything. We really have got to stop carrying on as usual, and start imagining other futures and different ways of life more consistent with what our planet can actually support.