Digital Storytelling in the Era of Climate Change

By Thelma Young, 350.org Digital Storyteller and Social Media Manager

Climate change is an unfinished story. What our own future, not just our children’s future looks like depends on what happens in the next few years. There is also no single story of climate change, it’s much bigger than scientific charts, online networks, and political conferences like COP22. The reality is that everyone is impacted, but everyone is impacted in an entirely unique way. For farmers in Kenya, they may be battling intense droughts and shifting seasons. For a family in the Nile Delta, it could be the rising sea levels that continually flood their fields with salt water. In order to really turn things around, we need to involve everyone in the struggle to limit the rise of carbon emissions, survive the impacts and build real solutions.

Photo by Leeroy Jason for the Our Climate Stories storytelling project during COP22

For too long the stories of climate change have been dominated by journalists, celebrities, politicians and scientists from predominantly European and North American countries. And while it’s good that Leonardo DiCaprio is using his status to create a climate documentary, the truth is — we need to go beyond this and build up new regional networks of climate storytellers. We need more online stories in Arabic, French, English and more, so that new conversations can be ignited — local conversations that will help build lasting local solutions. Our digital systems are changing rapidly, and more than ever people have the ability to share their own story. It is a single raw mobile phone video that can gather half a million views and spark a national dialogue. One powerful tweet can be shared thousands of times and shift mindsets. We don’t have to rely on the interpretations of journalists — we can show our own strengths and values.

More than ever it’s important to challenge the dominant narratives the elites of the world tell. Business as usual cannot continue and we can share our truths to make sure it doesn’t.

Two boys in Kiribati, from the Frontline Truths storytelling project

Big polluting countries will likely still play a heavy role in conversations about climate change because of how imperative it is that they change their energy systems. We need these countries to understand what their emissions are doing to others. Stories can play a crucial part in building empathy, bearing witness to abuses and inspiring more people to mobilize to fight the fossil fuel industry. In our fast paced digital era though, it can be difficult to get someone’s attention. People scroll through their Facebook, look at an image and keep on going. On the other hand, well done digital storytelling can make a person pause, reflect, learn, and then act. Through storytelling we can fight “clicktivism” and build lasting relationships between people. However, creating online stories that leave an impact does take planning, building trust, and constantly thinking about how to honor our collective humanity. It is the powerful stories we hear that can hang in our hearts and stay with us, through periods of hope and times of frustration.

Reporting at the World Social Forum in Tunisia, part of the Climate Justice in North Africa storytelling project

Storytelling can also be a valuable way we share lessons learned about how we survive the climate crisis. A community in the Philippines can share about how they installed solar panels on their church, someone in Fiji can talk about ways to help your village rebuild after a cyclone, and someone in Brazil can write about new ways to distribute water during a drought.

We are stronger when through our stories, we remember we aren’t alone in this journey. Human beings have never faced a planet this hot. It is new uncharted territory we enter each day, and through our connections we can help one another through the times ahead.

Using the Digital Storytelling Deck of Cards

This new toolkit is a deck of 10 cards that you can download and print out (or just save on your phone). It helps walk you through the process of planning a digital storytelling project as well as creating and distributing it. While there is much to learn in this work, this will help you get going to gather the stories the world needs to hear. We hope to keep on releasing new resources that will help build up a new generation of storytellers.

The Storytelling Cards are available to download in:

English

Arabic [coming soon]

French.

During COP22 and after, we encourage people to start creating stories and then share on the Our Climate Stores Storytelling Hub and by using #OurClimateOurLife. Here is how people can submit content. Even after COP22 we will continue to support more communities in sharing the stories.

We are currently testing out these storytelling cards, and if you have a project in mind and want to utilize this resources — great! If you are interested to get involved, sign up here.