Reclaiming the storytelling
Here we have Another Report telling us in no uncertain terms that unless we curb our carbon emissions, the consequences will be dire. But who’s listening?
It seems to me that the only times the general public is prepared to accept scientific findings, is when the scientists are telling them something they are willing to hear. Or should I say: when the mainstream media throws its collective weight behind the research telling the public that this is something they want to hear. And when do the media do such a thing? They do this when the corporations that fund the media stand to gain financially by the public accepting a certain premise, argument or theory. Like the need to go to war, or the need to vaccinate our kids, or to the need to privatise our Royal Mail, our NHS, our railways.
We all live by our cultural stories, it’s what we grew up believing was true, because our parents believed it, and our friends and our teachers and so on. Sure, there is a questioning of the narrative when we hit our teens, but the old headlines will always influence our thinking one way or another. Like the tale that most parents hold so dear:“The future will be just like the past, only much better”. Or “Our culture is the most advanced that ever existed”. Or “Western style democracy allows for more personal freedom than any other existing political system”. Show me somebody who’s never believed any of those and I’ll show you a liar. Any story that challenges one of these deeply held “truths” has an epic fight on its hands. A story like the Tale of Climate Change and Peak Oil, or a story like the End of Growth is no bedtime fare in our world.
How do you get a global population which has been conditioned to believe that Economic Growth is always good, always benign and the only way to a Better Life, to accept and believe that the medicine has now turned toxic and will kill us? Especially if you haven’t got all the bells and whistles the advertising industry can deploy at the flick of a share price. When people are assaulted every day from every angle by the notion that they haven’t got enough, that they will never have enough and that they need to get more now, how do you tell them that they have to start making do with less and get them to accept that? While the big corpo media is churning out a message in 3D, HD techno colour that screams: “We’ll make you happy, we’ll fulfil all your dreams, you can have whatever you want and you don’t have to worry about anything, it’s taken care of!”, we think we can convince the public with our soggy piece of cardboard that says...Yeah, what does it say? Do I even need to elaborate?
We’ve been fighting story with story, argument with counter argument for how many years now? Do you think we’re winning here? Yet while the story of the IPCC and the Latest Climate Change Report has disappeared from the news front pages only days after its publication, my FB page is still full of it. There’s post after post from people talking about sea level rise, extreme weather events, feedback loops. Ordinary people do care; they talk about climate change long after the hype in the media dies down. They worry about their children’s futures. Talk to most individuals and you’ll find them troubled; if not about climate, then about resource depletion or the economic situation. “The general public”, on the other hand, is a moronic beast, just like the big corporations are psychopathic dinosaurs. You can’t argue with them, you can’t convince them of anything that goes against their hedonistic interests. But they’ve got one thing in common: they’re both made up of people, individuals with children and families. When it comes down to it, street sweeper or corporate CEO, you want a future for your kids. Maybe it’s time we stopped trying to convince the “general public”. What if we talked to individuals instead? What if we talked to neighbours, colleagues, and the person on the seat next to us? What if we had hundreds of conversations, person to person, where we could share our worries and even more importantly, listen to theirs? Let’s not leave it to Greenpeace, or Friends of the Earth or any other campaign group to do the talking. It’s time for desperate measures: let’s start the conversation everywhere with anybody; as long as they are just people, I think a lot of them will listen.