“… A person who had never listened to nor read a tale or myth or parable or story, would remain ignorant of his own emotional and spiritual heights and depths, would not know quite fully what it is to be human. For the story- from Rumpelstiltskin to War and Peace – is one of the basic tools invented by the mind of man, for the purpose of gaining understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.” (Ursula K. Le Guin, Language of the Night, p. 22.)
Few things move us like a captivating story told by a master storyteller. Stories can be grand and epic narratives that guide the thoughts and actions of entire societies and cultures. They can also be of a more intimate nature – tales of personal trials and triumphs, quiet comedies and tragedies. They can range from light-hearted escapist adventures to deep meditations of the human condition. Regardless of their scope, the stories that endure share the common trait of being able to reach, resonate, and inspire us in ways few things can.
I’ve always been fascinated by the relationship between humanity and nature. I don’t think it’s particularly outrageous to say that it is currently, at best, a dysfunctional one. Having an ecologically aware and literate populace is critical if we wish to create in a richer, healthier, and more sustainable future. But many of us have become so disconnected from nature that news about pollution, climate change, and biodiversity loss has little meaning; they exist as problems “out there”. The information given is not grounded in context, has little relevance, and is drowned out by the deluge of noise in our daily lives. Many of us still treat the environment as a side component to our lives instead of the building blocks on which society, civilization, even our very selves are built upon. Buffered by day to day concerns and compartmentalized by our specializations, we fail to see, or do not wish to see, the deep connections that exist between nature, culture, and self. As such, vast amounts of time and energy spent in attempts to promote sustainability, more often than not, run shallow and are wasted.
The Power of Stories
Stories have the ability to break down walls, to get us to care, to make us think differently, and in so doing, to ignite the fires of change. Good stories mean something to us: They ground us in truth. The modern North American environmental movement was founded upon a story. Rachel Carson galvanized an indifferent public to action with her dystopic fable of what a “silent spring” would look like. It is this power of narratives that I have always been intrigued by – its ability to stimulate connections, empathy, understanding, and change – all of which are crucial ingredients to move towards a more inclusive and sustainable future.
The Word for Earth is Ekos
Ekos, derived from the Greek word Oikos, means house, or home. It is the root word for both ecology (study of the house) and economy (management of the house). In both of these contexts, the house is the one home we all share: Earth. The purpose of Ekostories is to look at the many interesting stories, anecdotes, parables, tales, and myths that have influenced my personal thinking on the connections humans have with the earth. They come from a diverse range of sources, ranging from novels, films, childrens’ books, and television, to games, biographies, short stories, and documentaries. They could be prominent environmental works, or they could be things that have very little to do with environmental thinking outside of my own mind.
Ekostories is not intended to merely dissect and distill a story into a series of ideas. A story should not be reduced to the sum of its parts; I am of the opinion that a good story cannot be adequately described by anything less than its entirety. What I hope to do in my posts is to explore a range of environmental ideas, themes, and connections that resonated with me personally. To me, the diversity in the origins and substance of these stories means that they speak across a wide range of disciplines: Communication, education, anthropology, systems thinking, philosophy, ethics, change management, organizational development. Ekostories is intended as a place for connections and bridge-building.
The Purpose of Ekostories
“It is of the nature of idea to be communicated: written, spoken, done. The idea is like grass. It craves light, likes crowds, thrives on crossbreeding, grows better for being stepped on.” (The Dispossessed, p. 72)
Why does anyone start a blog? Basically, I have thoughts I want to write down and I wish to share them. First and foremost, Ekostories is a place for my own personal reflections, a space for me to explore the stories and connections I am interested in. Acquiring experience in writing is a side bonus.
Ekostories could be utilized as a resource for educators and communicators seeking to find new ways to present environmental ideas and messages. As far as I can tell, there doesn’t seem to be too much out there in terms of exploring environmental ideas and connections in stories, so I figured I would get the ball rolling.
Ekostories could also provide interesting reading for fans of particular stories. I will be drawing a lot of inspiration from author Ursula K. Le Guin, filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, and food and nature writer Michael Pollan, as they have had significant influence in my own thinking. If you’re a fan of theirs, chances are that you’ll enjoy this blog.
In the end, what you as the reader want and get out of this blog is up to you. I write for myself, but I am not writing to myself. Blogging is a form of communication, and as such Ekostories exists as a space for the exchange of ideas. I hope the things I write about are interesting and meaningful enough to get you thinking about people, about culture, and about nature. There is of course opportunity for dialogue, as most of my entries will have questions designed to stimulate thought and discussion. Suggestions for stories that moved you or changed your understanding of the world are also appreciated.
There are now more than forty Ekostories on this blog. If you’re new to the site, head over the archives and check out the word clouds to get a quick feel for some of the stories I’ve covered so far. Thanks for reading.
Le Guin, Ursula K. The Dispossessed. New York: HarperCollins, 1974.
Le Guin, Ursula K. The Language of the Night: Essays on fantasy and science fiction. New York: Berkley 1982.