Telling Stories about the Planet We Share – NSSM2020

Guest Post by Isabel Thomas

Once upon a time, there was a planet that was not too hot, not too cold, but just right…  

The science behind climate change is vital. Vast amounts of data cataloguing millions of years of Earth’s history allow us to fully understand what is happening to the planet we share. But if knowledge is our number-one weapon in the fight for our planet, storytelling is number two.

Stories tell us why climate change matters

Many people respond more emotionally to storytelling than statistics. On their own, the numbers seem too big, the causes too distant, the solutions too hard. It feels impossible to make a difference, and worry sets in.  

Stories build bridges right over this worry, connecting the science with children’s own understanding and ideas. 

A cloud of temperature data morphs into a flock of birds flying over your garden, migrating ever earlier as they adapt to a warming world. A table of cord, hard ice core statistics solidifies into a story of the scientists who battle the world’s coldest climates to bore 3-kilometre holes into the past. 

On the other side of the bridge, terms like ‘climate emergency’ and ‘carbon offsetting’ feel more real, but LESS scary. Stories stir up new emotions of pride, wonder and hope, to dilute that worry – encouraging children to not only care about the planet we share, but to feel they can do something to help it. 

Here are five ways that children, parents and educators can use their storytelling skills to tackle the climate emergency, from This Book Will Help Cool The Climate.

1. What’s your story? When did you first learn about climate change, and how did it make you feel? What are you doing to make a difference? How has it made you feel? Practise telling it, in words, in writing or in another creative way – for example as a cartoon or comic strip. 

2. Tell the story of climate change in your own words. It’s epic. Who and what are the villains? Who will be the heroes? 

3. Dig out local stories. Climate change is a global problem, which can often mean numbers so big they’re hard to understand or care about. Telling someone about the impact of climate change on a particular person, animal or plant can make them sit up and listen.

4. Share happy stories too. The stories of climate change that make headlines often leave us feeling scared, frustrated or powerless. But people are more likely to take action if they feel hopeful. When you read a story about positive action by a person, organisation or government, share it with others. 

5. Start a new chapter. Remember the story of climate change is still being written, and you get to help decide how it ends. 
Isabel Thomas is a science writer, children’s author and winner of the 2020 AAAS Prize for Excellence in Science Books. In This Book is Not Rubbish and This Book Will Help Cool the Climate, Isabel explains the science behind environmental headlines with relatable, funny text and cartoons by Alex Paterson. Each book gives children 50 practical, enjoyable and evidence-based ways they can make a difference to our planet.

Any opinions expressed within this post may not truly reflect those of the FCBG.

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