Climate storytelling at Georgetown University

A wave breaks on the ocean

I’m teaching a class in climate storytelling at Georgetown University this week. 

I remember the day someone suggested I was avoiding climate change in my work, perhaps because I have rarely made it the main focus of my stories. I reflected on that feedback for a long time before I could articulate how personal stories of people’s dreams and passions are related to global warming. 

This is where I landed: a personal story is also a narrative of what’s at stake. The areas most impacted by climate change predict what will happen everywhere soon, not in terms of specific weather and climate events, but in terms of changed plans, lost dreams, or a path forever out of reach. In some cases, these are also (and simultaneously) stories of new ideas or a road that leads somewhere totally unexpected. 

Because personal stories have such an impact on me, they are the ones I pursue. I can listen to the changes in people’s lives more easily than I can understand other types of data. 

Thanks to Professor Wesley Della Volla, I’ll be able to discuss this mode of creativity with a new generation of storytellers later this week. A course in climate storytelling is part of Georgetown University’s Core Pathways initiative, where students learn about one topic from many different angles and disciplines. Climate change is the first Core Pathway initiative. 

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