Is it Time to Change the Story? Let’s Start Writing the Future.

April 29, 2016

NOTE: Images in this archived article have been removed.

Image Removed
Story image via shutterstock. Reproduced at with permission.

Our stories hold energy. They can keep us focused on the content and energy of life as we know it.

Consider the stories we carry about our family or our personal history, and see how they tend to hold us to what is familiar, for good, or for ill. Stories can also change things by pointing us in new directions.

The movie “This Changes Everything,” shown as the kickoff to the Community Read book by Naomi Klein with the same title, began with Klein saying: “What if the story we’ve been told for the past 400 years is the wrong story?”
Klein is referring to the narrative that humans have dominion over the earth and its resources, and that our economic system, capitalism, casts us all as “consumers,” encouraging the belief that endless growth is somehow feasible on a planet with real, finite limits to natural resources.
Encouraged to continue extraction of fossil fuel as part of our necessary future, we now know that to persist on this path will drive climate change to global-warming levels that will make sustaining life impossible. This story virtually guarantees a miserable outlook for what lies ahead, and perhaps no future for generations that would live beyond our lifetimes.
Living this story creates a significant disconnect for all of us, when you stop and think about it.
What if we need now to draft a new story, one that ensures a future for our children, their children and the generations beyond? What would that new story be? How would we want to live differently? Now – and into the future.
It is hard to change. The familiar holds some sort of hypnotic comfort for most of us, even when what is familiar to us is, very likely, a failing system.
How many of you feel dismayed about things as they are, yet you are not quite able to dream up a different sort of future, one that holds more promise in the long run? With no map, how will we get there?
Our community had the wise foresight to shift to public (and closer to carbon-neutral hydro) power. I wonder what other “power” we might choose to write into our new story, given the chance and the courage to do so.
What if we decided to feed ourselves, as much as possible, locally grown and organically produced, healthy food, reducing our food’s carbon footprint, ensuring food security and healthier bodies, and securing a sustainable future for our local farms and farmers?
Or, if we decided we wanted everyone who lives here to have “enough”: enough income, enough housing, enough meaningful work?
What if we made the quality of our personal community connections our source of social security instead of how much money we had deposited in the bank? What would it look like if, instead of the appalling income disparity, increasing poverty and the disappearance of the middle class, we all had our basic needs fulfilled? How might we design and live into that new story? What would be required of us to effect such change? Would drawing a new map help?
If there’s one thing I have realized as a community organizer in Jefferson County over the past many years, it’s that this community can and does collaborate and create exceedingly well in finding innovative solutions to really big problems, when we decide to do something.
Can we collectively write a new story? One that is closer to how we would truly like to live? What chapter of that new story are you already carrying within you? Would you put it into words to share? I am interested!
I’m inviting us to begin to draft that new story. For now, please email your new story contributions, a few sentences, a paragraph or perhaps even a whole chapter, to Let yourself dream a little and, if you can, remain hopeful for our world.
Perhaps we will craft a new map, find a new way, write a new story, together. Stay tuned. Thanks.
(Judith Alexander lives in Port Townsend and has been a community activist for many years. While she is a founding member of Local 20/20 and current facilitator of Jefferson County’s Local Food System Council, she notes that neither group officially endorsed this piece.)
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Tags: cultural stories, Culture & Behavior, story