Anyone who wants to encourage people to take an active role in combating climate change will not achieve this by appealing for “eating less meat” or “air travel is harmful to the climate”. And if these appeals were still accompanied by facts such as “the proportion of climate-impacting methane emissions from the digestion of cattle amounted to 76.6% in 2014”. (Federal Environment Agency 2017 on data from agriculture and forestry), people cannot be reached. Rather, they “switch off”. I do not want to be confronted with a message that could be unpleasant, that shames me, that mercilessly holds up my mirror because I have still not done enough to save the climate. We have no lack of knowledge – about the inevitable threats posed by global warming, about the extreme weather events and the disasters that are already commonplace in some parts of the world. And yet we do not act accordingly and consistently. We do not have a problem of knowledge, but rather an implementation problem.
Stories can be more than appeals and facts: they touch and create positive images in our minds. Telling stories is a form of knowledge transfer in which both the factual level and feelings are exchanged: we not only experience what happens, but can “empathise”. Moreover, values are conveyed – often in the form of “the moral of this story is…”. Stories can stimulate systemic and creative thinking. Story Telling focuses on understanding contexts and meanings. They encourage you to form your own opinion. Cognitive participation and discussion can open up a new quality in communication.
To tell a good story, the statement must be succinct to the point. Anyone who cannot outline the core of the story in a few words will probably get lost in the plot. Today, in the digital age, a story can be told through several media. The movie production companies have long recognized this. For the first part of the trilogy “Hunger Games” an own online world was created. The fans were able to register as citizens of the Nation Panem and got information about the latest fashion trends in the fictional capital via a blog. Products are sold today with good stories. Why not the alternative models of a de-growth-society and the new ways to a sustainable life and economy? So it’s all about telling stories about how our actions make the world a little better: More belly and heart for climate protection and sustainability. Or to put it scientifically – it’s about narrative sustainability communication.
Nothing is really new about this method. Oral traditions play a role in many cultures: even our ancestors told each other stories by the fire and passed on their knowledge to the following generations. Everyday life has always been experienced and communicated in a variety of ways: face to face, over time and place in word-of-mouth stories, as written words, in pictures, in songs, music, etc..
A good example of a “good story” is the film Tomorrow. For their documentary film, the directors travelled to ten countries on our planet and searched for stories that paint the picture of a different future with many approaches to solutions. The film clearly shows that a dream can become the reality of tomorrow as soon as people become active. The world is full of solutions – we just have to find them together.
We also work with storytelling on these pages. We do not (only) want to prepare the experiences and findings that we have gained in our three-year research as scientific facts and learning materials. We also want to tell stories that motivate people to break new ground.