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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds In 1987, the Brundtland Report, which founded sustainable development, with those, came out, and that is about 30 years ago now. And that report stated the time for action is now. That was a big exclamation mark. And we only have, as you said, a few– five to ten years of– window of opportunity. And I see this is a rehashing of the apocalypse or the doomsday story that the environmentalists have– unfortunately, have been deeply addicted to as part of our Christian culture. We have a culture who has had the apocalypse thinking with us for about 1000 to 2000 years. And it’s always been the end of times.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 seconds So it is really a state of mind that does things to us or a point in the calendar. The end times is not a date in the calendar. So I think letting go of that narrative is quite important. At least balancing it with three or four other narratives.

Skip to 1 minute and 19 seconds One narrative is the smart green growth model, where you seek that growth, it’s not just in volume, but it’s more like a tree. A tree keeps growing even if it doesn’t grow taller. It grows more roots. It grows more nuanced interactions with insects, with birds, with– the whole ecosystem gets richer because it keeps growing, and breathing, even though it doesn’t get taller. So growth has many meanings. And we need to explore other ways of growing, rather than having this binary opposition between pro-growth or de-growth. I think that’s a stupid discussion to have.

Skip to 1 minute and 57 seconds The question we want to have is what kind of growth can we have in our societies, just as the tree says what kind of growth– should I have a branch drop it there, should I have something more this way. And we see that growth becomes a metaphor for development or qualities of change. In addition to that, I think we need a narrative that is more focused on the well-being of people. We should speak more about what actually makes our lives worth living– happiness, joy. And we do know that it’s not more material consumption. So there is no correlation in countries that have about $20,000 purchasing power parity per capita. From there on, it doesn’t really matter.

Skip to 2 minutes and 50 seconds And the policy changes moving from promoting growth to promoting well-being of people. And there’s of course the equity aspect of that as well. The third type of story we need is one that looks at what is humanity’s role relative to religion, to nature, to ethics. We had a culture that has been looking at domination as the main narrative for about 1000 to 2000 years. Shifting that from domination to stewardship, what does it mean? What does it mean to include future generations in our considerations today? The voice of the unborn, how do we make them audible, visible, in our decision making? And this is a whole greening of religion, a whole greening of ethics that’s currently ongoing and very important.

Skip to 3 minutes and 40 seconds I think that the Pope’s– oh, what’s the right word– encyclical was very conducive to this. And finally, I also love the new narrative in terms of rewilding, that nature and ecosystems have an amazing resiliency. If we give them the slightest chance, they will bounce back on the wild animals come back, and the rivers come back to life, and the fish come back, and the trees, and the forests of the soil can re-grow and both humans and nature benefit when we collaborate rather than humans destructing it. How can we move towards wise rewilding. And many people find that incredibly motivating. So these are four stories that would replace the apocalyptic one that environmentalists have been overusing.

Skip to 4 minutes and 33 seconds It’s green growth is smart, it’s happiness is more important than material consumption, it’s the stewardship story and rewilding. And of course, they hit different audiences, but they are not mutually exclusive. So rather than one story replacing that one dominant modern apocalypse story, we have several different stories that reach different audiences, different segments of the population, both the religious, the socially minded, the economists and the entrepreneurs and the most hardcore nature lovers.

How can we overcome barriers to climate change engagement?

In the short video above, Per Espen Stoknes suggests four new narratives. These new narratives are supposed to help overcoming barriers of engaging with climate change by making it more personal and/or appealing.

Stoknes’ suggested narratives include:

  • Smart green growth
  • Well being and health
  • Humanity’s role in relation to religion
  • A move from domination to stewardship and re-wilding


Which of these narratives are relevant to your particular context and how can they help improve your communication strategy?

What are other forms or ways of communication do you think are helpful or effective in engaging people with (behaviour) change?

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This video is from the free online course:

Climate Change Leadership

Uppsala University