Narratives Working Group
People have always used stories to vividly describe a situation, articulate the choices we have in the face of a challenge and reimagine desired future. Sharing stories, or public narratives, is the process by which individuals, communities and whole societies construct identities, make choices and inspire action2. Narratives are important because they help us relate to an issue in a personal way that engages our ‘heads and our hearts’, connecting our values and beliefs to an issue in a way that the ‘cold hard facts’ cannot.
Today, the dominant narrative on climate change is one that is often environmentally focused, fact-heavy and fear-based. This story has not successfully mobilized strong responses, politically nor publically. We need to develop better methods for telling the story as well as developing the narrative about climate change. How can a public health narrative about climate change engage, inspire and mobilize a strong response to this issue?
Public Health Narratives on Climate Change
The public health narrative can help connect the complex and poorly understood topic of climate change to risks that the public already understands and accepts as important, such as asthma and other respiratory problems, vulnerability to extreme heat, food-borne illness, and infectious disease.
Public health is well positioned to help ‘reframe’ the narrative about climate from solely an environmental problem to also a human health problem by:
Educating the public about how climate change links to human health, what is at risk and where are there opportunities (risk management/ adaptation and mitigation)
Emphasizing immediate, positive opportunities to inspire hope and action
Articulating co-benefits between climate mitigation and human health (eg active transportation, food security)
Localizing the issue - explain the impacts at the local/regional level
Educating colleagues about the links between public health mandates/frameworks and climate action/education
Using distinct messages to "translate" the issue to diverse audiences (similar to other work public health is engaged with)
Providing a credible evidence-based voice
Translating health data to raise public awareness of key issues and opportunities
Educating about the social and economic costs - impacts on those most vulnerable, costs of procrastination vs. timely action
The Narratives Working Group is currenlty working with various partners to developing a narrative-based resources and workshops. Please visit our Meetings and Events page to learn more about the working groups' activities.
Storytelling: Why It Matters and How To Get It Right: http://www.climateaccess.org/resource/storytelling-why-it-matters-how-get-it-right
How Storytelling is at the Heart of Making Social Change. Video and transcript of Veteran activist and organizer Marshall Ganz interviewed by Bill Moyers on the power of social movements to effect meaningful social change. One of Ganz’s key themes is the crucial role narrative plays in social movements. http://www.climateaccess.org/resource/how-storytelling-heart-making-social-change
1 Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C. & Hmielowski, J. Global Warming's Six Americas, March 2012 & Nov. 2011 (Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, 2012).
2 Ganz, M. (2008). What is Public Narrative.
Green Health Care Working Group
More to come...In the meantime, please visit the Canadian Coalition for Green Health Care for information on this topic: