What are Ekostories?

“… 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

Ekostories Wordle

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 a hundred entries on Ekostories. If you’re new to the site, head over to the Archives for a full listing of essays, along with shorter pieces on interesting links I’ve come across. Thanks for reading!

Related Ekostories

Reference

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.

60 Comments

  1. I love the concept of your blog!! Thanks for visiting my blog—and providing me with the path to find yours! Looking forward to reading more…

  2. What a beautiful, wonderful blog! Thanx for getting the ball rolling! I’m so glad you stopped by my blog. Yet, more glad that I stopped by here. I will be back! Repeatedly!

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting. I look forward to reading more of your entries too!

  3. Thanks for stopping by my blog – I hope you have the chance to see things from a new angle about the environment by reading posts. I know I have enjoyed reading your posts so far =]

    • I always enjoy learning about different forms of habitats and communities, especially ones that include sundews! Thanks for reading.

  4. thanks for following my blog! I’m glad to discover your ekostories – they create and develop a lot of themes that I love, so I’m looking forward to reading your work in future.
    Thanks!

    • Science communication is something that I’m also interested in, so I appreciate the insight you provide on your blog. Thanks for reading!

  5. What a cool melding of seemingly disparate topics. I am looking forward to enjoying your writing now that you have provided me the path to share in your work. Thanks so much.

    • That’s sort of what I’m going for. I’m quite interested in your ruminations on exploring an unboxed life as well; your post on over-consumption is great. Cheers!

  6. papabearnelson says

    “Having an ecologically aware and literate populace is critical if we wish to create in a richer, healthier, and more sustainable future”
    Such a true statement, well spoken.

    • Thanks very much. I truly believe in that goal, and am working in my own way to work towards that.

  7. Hello Isaac! I am glad I found your blog. I will continue to follow and look around. Ursula Le Guin has been one of my favourite writers for a long time. I have recently rediscovered (via mindfulness) my writing as a committed practice and am appreciating reading writers like Le Guin, Mary Oliver, Judith Wright who explore the sacred nexus of language and earth. I also have children and work with children so am naturally interested in where this nexus meets children’s ecology. A short piece of mine you might enjoy… https://seedmind.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/my-practice/
    Simon, Australia
    PS I also last year created a site about children and community (but have not been active there recently) http://www.wiser.org/group/growingchildren

    • Hi Simon,
      Thanks for your comment! It’s always nice to meet people who have similar tastes in author and subject. Through writing this blog, I’ve found that a lot of the subjects and stories I tackle revolve around children and the environment, so that is definitely a focus for me as well. I hope you appreciate reading through some of those entries.

      Thanks also for sharing your poems. Poetry is not my strong suit, but I find myself nowadays drawing insight and inspiration from many new and unexpected sources.

    • Thanks very much for the nomination, Rebecca. I am honoured to accept the award and will work on a post of acceptance.

      • I am so very honoured that you accepted. I look forward to visiting your blog on a regular basis and have enjoyed your detailed and thoughtful comments on issues that speak to our humanity.

  8. Stories are definitely a large part of why I am so interested in environmental issues. I would not know how to separate out what part of my love for nature is from direct experience vs. stories I have read or heard, since there are so many, but one author who always springs to mind when it comes to nature is Gene Stratton Porter. Her novels are magic, seriously.

    • It’s great to hear that stories stirred your interest in the environment as well. I have not heard of Stratton-Porter before, but I will definitely check out her works. Thanks for the recommendation!

  9. Great concept! I, too, think that half the problem is the fact that our populous is so disconnected with true nature and agriculture. I’m glad to see you are working to remedy this. It’s something that’s been on my mind lately.

    • Sorry for the late reply, but the lack of connection between cause and effect is definitely one of the key areas of concern when exploring our dysfunctional relationship with nature. Thanks for reading.

  10. Hi Isaac,
    You have secured yourself a follower! A sincere one.
    There has not been a single day in the last 15 years that I have not thought/mentioned/quoted, wrote about/ spoke about Le Guin. So you see brother that we are on the same side.
    Here is my mail: monaelnamoury@hotmail.com. You can also find me on FB with this mail.
    I am translating a Wizard of Earthsea into Arabic. I found your blog as I was trying to figure out what a fourfoil flower would look like. Of course, there is no Arabic equivalent for such an invented flower.
    I am living with Sparrowhauk these days. It is strange when you are translating, you are almost comitting suicide, giving yourself entirely to another person, another life. But Sparrowhauk has helped me greatly in the past rough months overcome many turmoils on the political scene in EGypt.
    Salam
    Mona

  11. Hi Mona,

    I find that I also refer more and more to her works as I get older, not just in terms of content, but also in the manner it is conveyed. There is a simple plainness in her prose that belies hidden depth and subtlety that is quite distinctive. It must be a difficult but rewarding process to try to capture that in a translation.

    We get some news about Egypt in North America, but not probably not enough to capture all the nuances on the ground. The situation and the notion of revolution remind me of many passages from the Dispossessed. You are probably very familiar with them.

    Regards,
    Isaac

  12. Dear Isaac,
    Yes, I am familiar with the Dispossessed. I worked on all the major SF novels and short stories and translated Omelas into Arabic a year ago. Shevek was my twin character for many years!
    Yes, translating Le Guin is almost impossible. I keep editing endlessly to capture her soft/crystal clear prose. But when a passage is done right! Oh Isaac, it also translates itself into right Arabic.I discuss a lot with my friends as well to reach the best structure.
    This lady has enriched my life greatly for the last 15 years.I simply love her.
    Egypt! Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm! It is simply grimmer that you may imagine; grimmer than Shevek’s world. But the people have changed and won’t accept tyranny again. Not without paying their lives first! We will see. If you visit Le Guin’s official site, you will find two articles I wrote at the beginning of the Egyptian uprising. She kindly posted them to her Le Guin as a sign of appreciation.
    I leave you to work now. Will visit the blog again.
    Salam (it means peace be upon you)
    Mona

  13. Reading this again, I think you’re spot on. And I think you’re doing good by writing out the different ideas that you get from stories; the more we focus in on culture and what it means to us, the more we change as a society.

    Great blog, and I love that we’re covering similar ground. Thanks for writing!

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting. I think the exploration of personal meaning derived from stories is a really good means for developing connections or for generating discussion. I look forward to your future posts.

  14. Let me add to the list of laudatory comments: what a beautiful and inspired blog! I suspect you would find Bruce Morito’s attunement ethic very appealing… If you haven’t already come across it, it’s worth looking up. Thanks for sharing your ideas and stories!

    • No, I’m not familiar with his work, but an ethic of mutual respect and attunement from an initial googling sounds like something I would like to check out. Thanks very much!

  15. A lovely blog, I’m glad I found it! I couldn’t agree more that telling stories is a powerful tool to promote empathy and change – which our beleaguered biosphere desperately needs. More power to your pen! (or perhaps keyboard…)

    • Glad to be found! I hope you find some of the stories on this site interesting, and I would love to hear your thoughts.

  16. I am overjoyed to have stumbled upon your blog! Stories, myths, the earth.. all things I’m interested in! Looking forward to reading many more!

    • Thanks for visiting. Always enjoy encountering people with similar interests. I hope you find a story here that personally connects with you.

  17. writerlyjill says

    It seems that we are like-minded Isaac, and I am thrilled you found my blog because it resulted in me finding yours. To anyone who does not understand the importance and the wonder of nature, I suggest they live along a body of water because then its glory cannot go unnoticed. We lived on a small lake for one year, and it completely changed my understanding of climate and wildlife. And birds: who knew birds could be so interesting. Ha! I wonder if you have read Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake”?

    • Hi Jill,

      Always good to connect with people with similar interests and passions. I have lived all my life near the ocean, and it is a powerful influence on how I relate to the world.

      Being Canadian, I’m ashamed to admit that I have not read a lot of Atwood, but it’s not for the lack of trying. The premise behind Oryx and Crake does sound intriguing. I might give it a go, as I’m always looking for new stories to explore and write about. Thanks for the suggestion, and I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    • Hi Mona,
      Segoy.. as far as I recall. It is the creator of Earthsea, the one who spoke the word that raised all the islands out of the ocean, and the one who will unmake the world in the end. Some refer to Kalessin, the eldest dragon as Segoy, but it’s left a mystery. 🙂

  18. Thanks for stopping by my blog; as you know, in my current post I’m looking at ‘personal ecology’ as a requirement for goal-setting. What you are exploring here, is an interesting perspective on literature. It reminds me of the craft thesis of one of my peers, who presented a paper on treating nature as a story character – it was fascinating. Good luck with your project; I’ll definitely check in from time to time.

    • Thanks for visiting as well. Your goal setting approach to creative writing is very interesting, as I think I personally write best when I am aware of some sort of structure or framework around me.

  19. Hi Isaac – Great blog! I also have found that the exercise of writing for a blog has helped my writing and thought processes immensely. It’s a challenge to keep each post focused and tight – perfect work for a writer. Keep up the good work! – Mary

    • Hi Mary, thanks for visiting. I find the routine of maintaining a blog to be necessary to keep me on track. Deadlines and pressure seem to be necessary evils for a writer. Hope to see you at the next gathering!

  20. Pingback: We Birth Our Future « Art, Spirit, Nature

  21. Thanks for stopping by my blog! Yours is absolutely stunning and the concept is stellar. You’ve got an instant follow-back from me. Can’t wait to read more of your work!

  22. “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.”

    These are powerful, necessary words. So glad to connect!

    Devi
    http://www.onebikeoneyear.wordpress.com

  23. What a wonderful place you have created. Our society is in dire need of rekindling that bond with Mother Earth. We have lost touch and the distance between us seems to astronomical to most, to such an alarming degree that it is spoken of as some distant memory. Drowned in our needs we blindly buy into “something better”. We ignore the consequences, or worse, we refute them. These stories, your ekostories, is what people need to remember. To recreate the bond using the wonderful gift of imagination, something we all have no matter how oblivious. The seed of stories will maybe , hopefully, have sprouted…
    Wishing you all the wondrous things you seek in your path.
    Looking forward to roaming through your blog.

    • The seed of stories.. I like that 🙂 Thank you for visiting this space, and I hope you find a few stories on here that resonate with you as well.

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