When I was a little girl, I had an abundance of energy. I would bounce off the walls at a million miles an hour. For my newly widowed mother, I must have been a real handful. I can only imagine the relief my mom felt when she discovered that one of my favourite things to do was to listen to stories. We would go to the public library for story time and suddenly, this bouncing ball of energy would sit still and listen intently— utterly transformed by the words and images shared by an adult holding a book.
To get me up in time for school, my mom would wake me with the promise of listening to an episodic children’s radio show, “Apple House.” I befriended the school’s librarian and began a lifelong love affair with books. I love stories so much, I worked as a multimedia creator for over a decade. But for me, nothing can ever replace the sheer joy of gathering round and listening to a story. As mentioned in ‘The Power of the Story: Part I,’ stories have real power. Above all, I think the greatest power of storytelling lies in its ability to both educate and effect change.
I have a clear memory of learning about Acid Rain at story time. It is also how I learned about Recycling. And Ecosystems. And the Amazon Rainforest… And while I am by no means an environmental activist, from time to time, I do find myself wondering just how much those stories imprinted on my worldview. Who would I be today if I had not heard those stories? Without them, would I have a passion for sustainability the way that I do now? Is there any way to truly measure the impact a story has? I remember these stories, I remember decidedly less from other interactions in the classroom. Are stories actually Education’s secret weapon?
As a communications major at Simon Fraser University, many years after I sat on the library carpet in rapt attention, I learned about the difference between oral and literate traditions. In oral societies, myths and histories were often shared around the campfire by an honoured individual. The content of the stories varied but this tradition was a commonality in many indigenous communities around the world.
For many generations, Maori oral history shared their origin story– claiming that a specific number of ancestors travelled to New Zealand from areas believed to be modern day Polynesia. When the remains of boats that matched the description of this Maori oral history were uncovered in New Zealand (without any other existing documentation of this event) many academics reassessed the skepticism that had long accompanied oral history. Stories suddenly became more reliable. Perhaps even more reliable than printed word.
And here we are, in 2021, in the midst of a global pandemic, largely confined to interactions through a screen. Can humankind pivot? Can we use this time of social isolation to dig deep into our consciousness and create a new narrative? Can we find new & interesting ways to educate each other through new stories? Can multimedia become our new proverbial campfire? Can we create a new vision for the future, a new story that will educate and inspire children and adults alike?
As part of a Demonstration Project through the United Nations’ One Planet network, we are currently extending an invitation to the global population to take their best shot in creating stories for 1.5 degree lifestyles in 6 cities: Cape Town (South Africa), Kyoto (Japan), New Delhi (India), Nonthaburi (Thailand), São Paulo, Brazil and Yokohama (Japan.) The 1.5 Degree Lifestyles: Our Visions of the Future multimedia contest is led by the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) in collaboration with Hot or Cool Institute, D-Mat, ICLEI Japan, the National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan (NIES) with implementation partners: Akatu Institute (Brazil); Swechha India (India); ICLEI (South Africa); and HSM, Chulalongkorn University (Thailand).
Have you been taking photos, drawing comics or shooting video on ideas of what future living could look like? GREAT! Feel free to share something from your portfolio or create something new according to the city briefs available here!
You are invited to use storytelling to educate us! Share your vision for our future! We are gathered round, listening intently. We can’t wait to hear your ideas! Enter by 30 April for a chance to win up to a $2000 USD micro-grant!