by Lucas Kreuzer, your friendly story-teller.
Everything we believe in is based on fictional constructs – be it culture, religion, money, or enterprises. There exist real things like animals, trees, and rivers, but their future is determined by the interests and actions of powerful social constructs like those of governments or corporations. Story-telling is an ancient form of communication which has allowed generations to pass on knowledge and allows one to experiment with shared beliefs in order to co-operate. The success of initiatives or movements is contingent on the underlying story which stirs emotions inside those who learn of the story. So, what is the story of climate change and who tells it? The following is my personal view of how the public discourse on the climate crisis is influenced.
I think there exist three major narratives. The first: “In order to save our planet and secure the future of our upcoming generations, we need to be doing everything we can against the ecological crisis.” This belief is commonplace and such sentiments are echoed across a diverse diaspora of global activist groups. While the story has great potential to encourage social awareness, one almost wishes it were that simple. This is because those historically responsible for the majority of emissions continue leading luxurious lifestyles and their affluence continues to be responsible for growing emissions and global warming, detracting the global south of their natural resources, exploiting human labour in third-world nations. Meanwhile, mere crumbs are offered to historically exploited and impoverished nations in the name of their share of the residual planetary carbon budget for their development, while economic and political sanctions are imposed, local governments destabilized by foreign intervention and occupation, in the name of safeguarding „democratic principles“ by powerful nations and interest groups.
A second story: “The fight against the climate crisis will be aided with technocratic and scientific tools!” By investing in environmentally-friendly technology, research and development, and infrastructure, everyone gets a part and in parallel, we fight the ecological breakdown. Win-win situation?! What about justice? What about equity? Devoid of colonial, racial, economic or social context, technological solutions to the crisis are a mere band-aid fix and an insult to those who have suffered at the expense of others.
A third story: “Green is the new cool!” Over the last decades, in western, capitalist nations, companies and influencers repeatedly parroted the message that being oneself was the greatest freedom one had (and the path to self-knowledge requires one to buy product A or service B; the companies were marketting ’story 3′ and acting according to ’story 2′). This has changed and has been changing over the past years with growing public awareness about the drastic need for action to reduce emissions, even if individuals remain relatively unaffected by the direct impacts of the climate crisis (‚Story 1‘ continues to strongly impact this awareness). As a consequence, companies have resorted to infusing ecological sentiments in their products and advertising. Political parties across the world, in the lack of any meaningful leadership or stability remain unable to tackle the challenge holistically in their failure to come together and act collectively. Meanwhile, individual eco-consciousness is now a normalized topic of conversation within families, friends, colleagues. The success of the perpetrators of the ecological crisis is most evident in the burden of guilt borne by individuals, whose social, consumer behaviours and public discourse are subtly manipulated by green-washed and other tweaked algorithms.
All three stories are interlinked, woven within the fabric of thoughts and action. I think it is extremely important to think about the state of these narratives at the moment, and ways they can evolve in the future. I see a chance, that ’story 1′ will radicalize. This might mean more engaged public education and activism, but also also might mean more individuals grow their own food. Whatever feels radical to them.
The same holds true for ’story 3′, which is not necessarily an optimistic scenario. The issue of climate change might become so overbearing, it defines most things you think, do, or are allowed to do. Imagine a society, in which everything is justified by actions against climate change (ecofacism) (and money – ’story 2′, ‚economic goals‘), without considerations of the history, cultures, contemporary feasibilities, social structures, lifestyles and beliefs of communities and groups affected by the challenge. For sure this won’t be a fairer society than we have today.
Eventually this raises the question, what your personal story is. Can you, as a member of groups of diverse individuals come together to create your own story? Can you create a story for your group? Can you influence the discourse through common spaces? Can you reach out? What is the great vision of our generation for the future and how can we contribute to it?
I would love to further discuss these issues with you. Feel free to message me on Twitter or by mail (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Lucas Kreuzer, „about story telling“, aknownspace, 2021, 2, 2