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Storying Climate Change: Narrative, Imagination, Justice, Resilience

Stories are crucial elements of our responses to climate change. On one hand, our collective understandings and imaginations are shaped by dominant, inherited narrative conventions; as so many public climate stories rely on strongly apocalyptic tropes, many people are uncertain how to respond to them in their everyday lives. On the other hand, stories help us make shared emotional and relational sense of the complexity of large-scale ecological and social transformation. Recent works of climate-related fiction, poetry, and memoir that reflect a range of literary possibilities thus present a powerful, alternative cultural repertoire. Indigenous and other communities in which stories are integral to ecological understanding lead the way.

Storying Climate Change aims to extend this vital eco-cultural activity by bringing together diverse experts, activists, and creative writers for a lively, interdisciplinary conversation about climate change as a process in need of public story, especially as that story unfolds in the midst of issues of social justice and decolonization. After community consultation, the first stage of the project will be a workshop involving experts, writers, and activists to talk about creating (new/old) climate change stories (March, 2018); the second stage will be the collaborative production of a published collection of essays, stories, poems, and memoirs that reflect (and converse among) different perspectives on climate justice; and the third stage will be the presentation of the collectively-produced stories for broader public conversation.

Although the project has national and international implications, it is also strongly located in place, specifically, Galiano Island, BC, which is a powerful microcosm of larger climate justice concerns. At the same time as issues of drought, fire, species change, extreme weather, sea level rise, food security, and economic and social sustainability are part of larger climate change politics, they are also deeply local: specifically, they are intertwined with particular relations of colonialism, dispossession, settlement, and property; legacies of resource extraction and continued economic, social, and ecological precarity; and diverse, often conflicting interests in attempts to enact environmental and social justice agendas at the community level. The stories that emerge from the workshop will thus be dense, rooted, and complicated; their subsequent presentation and discussion in other local forums is intended to elicit other, equally complicated public responses.

Cate Sandilands