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My first peer reviewed article was published today! I'm grateful for the chance to write about my Master's thesis and share some of my thinking about #climatechange and #narrativedissonance . Please get in touch if you're interested in chatting more.…
My qualitative study looked at the #stories of young people who already know about and care about #climatechange. I wanted to know: how are they making sense of climate change in their everyday lives? How are they responding, and is that #engagement meaningful to them?
I used Marshall Ganz's framework for public narrative to map out the barriers to engagement across participant stories. Essentially, I was looking for clues as to where #climatenarratives break down, or become meaningless, even for those convinced and caring. #climatechange
Ganz's plot has four parts, and they'll be recognizable to you if you've ever read a story in your life. Stories have a Challenge, characters that make meaningful Choices, which lead to an Outcome from which we can draw a Moral of the story. Leaders shape mobilizing narratives.
So what does a mobilizing story about climate change sound like? My study mapped out a narrative model for thinking about meaningful engagement. The idea being that dissonance along the path to a meaningful story can disrupt mobilization, even among the willing.
It's not enough to know about climate change. We need folks to be able to connect knowledge with a meaningful sense of agency about the Challenge of climate change - that this is an issue that should matter greatly to them. But that agency is contingent on context.
The young people interviewed didn't consider themselves experts, but they know enough about #climatechange to know it's scary and urgent, and they spoke about feeling overwhelmed and turning away from abundant info sources about climate. A far cry from the info-deficit model.
But turning away to protect mental health makes it harder to connect agency about the Challenge of #climatechange to a sense of responsibility over the Choices in the story. Did they see themselves as characters in the story about climate? Yes. Characters with meaningful choices?
Not always. Narrative dissonance occurs when people can't make sense of their role in the story. Most participants were in fact making choices in their lives that reflect their concern about climate. They see opportunities to reduce their carbon footprint and show leadership.
But that doesn't mean their role, or their Choices feel meaningful. The heart of the story about #climatechange reflects the connection between responsibility and capacity over the Outcome. Many young people don't feel like they have the influence to play a meaningful role.
Participants experience dissonance between the scope of their responsibilities and the Outcomes our generation can anticipate. It can feel like individual Choices are meaningless if responses aren't connected to *collective* capacity to actually change the Outcome.
This is where organizing, collaboration, solidarity, and leadership becomes so important. Without #publicnarratives that connect present-day Choices with collective future Outcomes, individual responses to climate lack meaning. And it's more than adding up the sum of the parts.
Systems change is the only way to avoid climate catastrophe. Meaningful stories about climate change include Outcomes like racial justice, ending gender inequities, and historical reparations for colonization and imperialism. That means Choices beyond #flyless or #MeatlessMonday
Ultimately, I wanted to understand what meaningful #climatechange narrative looks like and feels like in context among young people driven by social and environmental justice values. Those who experience #narrativefidelity assert that the Moral of the story is Action!
But the actions that feel meaningful to them go above and beyond their personal lifestyle choices - that are pushing back against capitalism, colonialism, despair, and socially organized denial about #climatechange (to borrow from the great Kari Norgaard).
If we want to support climate action, we should each be working to shape public narratives about #climatechange that foster connections between agency, responsibility, capacity, and activation. It's not enough to know or care - we're all navigating narrative dissonance.
As @reneelertzman writes, the gap between knowledge and action isn't a Gap at all, it is a complex psychosocial landscape. We are all doing our best to make sense of our grief, guilt, & anger, and narratives can help make meaning of the melancholia.
I'll stop there for now, but I just want to say thanks to everyone who supported me and helped me get this out into the world. I'm always happy to chat more about #narrativedissonance & #climatechange and soon I'll follow up on intersections with #healthequity & #publichealth!
Also huge thanks to the many thinkers and writers on here that have inspired my own thinking about climate change, engagement, and equity. Works cited from @AlexSteffen @tuckeve @candiscallison @reneelertzman @climategeorge @ClimateOutreach @ErielTD @courtghoward @LiseKouri
@NaomiAKlein @DoctorVive @bethsawin @MaryHeglar @rgunns and @Indigenous_ca have also been real influences in my thinking about climate justice lately
Adding a link here to another thread on overlaps between climate change engagement, health equity, and the responsibility of public health professionals to help shift public narratives about the climate crisis & mobilize systems-level solutions.
@MariaVamvalis this is the part of the narrative that relates to awareness in the "pillars of mental health" model you shared with me Thursday (from the Center for Healthy Minds?).
@MariaVamvalis this is the part relates to "insight" I think - assessing the stakes of the story, assessing your role in the story, internalizing insights about yourself and world around you.
@MariaVamvalis this part definitely speaks to "connection", as well as solidarity, collective capacity, connection and relationship to ecosystems
@MariaVamvalis and then "purpose" clearly fits here. Cool to see the synergies between narrative fidelity and mental health frameworks. Thanks for sharing that with me!
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