Green Stories Mission
Our mission is to create a cultural body of work that entertains and informs about green solutions, inspires green behaviour and raises awareness of the necessary transformations towards a sustainable economy. Currently most green communications preach to the converted i.e. only those who already care choose to watch climate change documentaries or read books with a green theme. Thus a particular aim is to use fiction as a way to reach a wider audience.
To accomplish these objectives we have several strategies:
- Firstly is the series of free green stories writing competitions. These have been running since 2018. We’ve had 12 competitions so far and new competitions each year.
- Second is to engage with writers at events, writer’s retreats, creative writing courses and one-one consultancy to help writers integrate green solutions into mainstream fiction.
- Thirdly we continue to seek ways to translate winning entries into actual outputs in the world. We’ve had some successes, but we’d like more. Future plans are to promote selected books that have arisen from the green stories projects for entrants to read and set up a mentoring service for those that would like to self-publish.
There are many books/films that take a post-apocalyptic dystopian view of life after climate change. The trouble is that these can create fear and anxiety, leading to avoidance and denial. We’d like to give humanity a little more credit and think how some of the changes might be dealt with in more positive ways.
The benefit of presenting a rosier picture is not just that it reduces anxiety, but by presenting more positive visions you can actually make them happen. Stories are incredibly powerful – by showing how people could behave, you also affect how they do behave. Characters in stories act effectively as role models for our own behaviour, and having positive role models that are still realistic can be incredibly empowering and inspiring.
Our approach is informed by research by Professor Denise Baden who explored responses to stories about climate change. Her findings indicate that solution-focused stories with a positive tone are more likely to inspire greener behaviours and a proactive mindset to address sustainability issues than stories with a catastrophic focus. This seems to be because negatively framed stories can either make people avoid the subject and switch off, or leave them feeling helpless to make a difference.
Example quotes illustrate:
The second story felt inspirational. It gave me a simple option that I could take to do something positive for the environment.
This was very frightening and negative. It made me angry and I switched off
For more information on the research please click here.
This is an issue as the majority of communications about climate change have a catastrophic focus. In the realm of fiction too, most stories set in the future are dystopian and stories with a green focus tend to focus on problems rather than solutions. While this may make good drama, there is lack of balance. The green stories project aims to redress this balance, to support, guide and enable writers to effectively integrate green solutions into stories aimed at the mainstream. The aim is to reach those who wouldn’t dream of watching a documentary, reading a green-themed book or watching a movie about climate change.
Values behind the competitions
We are currently living beyond our means – if everyone lived as we do in the UK we’d need at least three planets, so the aim of sustainable development is to find ways of living where there is less wasteful distribution of resources. The climate crisis adds urgency to the need for change. We need to work out ways that we can all have what we need using fewer resources and be just as happy.
The difficulty in promoting sustainable behaviours is that they are often seen negatively as ‘doing without’ and the typical fear-based discourse can turn people off. This matters as in turn, political parties won’t see environmental issues as ‘vote winners’ which limits potential for green policy making.
Stories are powerful means of inspiring positive change. The Black Mirror series reflects anxieties about our future, and climate change discourse further creates fear and avoidance. What we really need are some positive visions that allow potentially transformative solutions to be showcased and played out.
The necessary societal transformations to sustainable societies require profound systemic changes across social, cultural, economic, environmental, political and technological domains. But to imagine how all aspects can come together within one society is more the domain of creative fiction. Therefore this competition aims to harness the creative visions of writers to imagine sustainable societies.
Or more simply, any story in any genre can showcase green solutions in numerous subtle ways, for example, by showing characters disapprove of wasteful behaviours or engage in green behaviours themselves. Just as some books/films product place products, we aim to ‘product place’ sustainable attitudes behaviours products and policies. Stories don’t have to be specifically about climate change or catastrophic shortages, they can be any kind of genre – rom com, crime drama, legal drama, children’s book, sci fi etc. as long as it showcases sustainable technologies, practices, products or ideas in the background. Another acceptable approach could be to focus on characters. Currently characters in fiction who are green/ethical are often portrayed as priggish or aggressive, we’d like to see attractive characters behaving in sustainable ways.
Our first competition was the short story competition in 2018 which resulted in an anthology of short stories called ‘Resurrection Trust‘. In 2019 we had free competitions across several formats (novel, TV series, stage play, radio play, interactive fiction – see previous winners). In 2020 we ran additional novel (children and adults, flash fiction) quick bites (8-10 minute episodes) and film screenplay with larger prizes and media involvement. In 2021 we have a radio play competition in August 2021 and novel competition in Dec 2021.
These competitions are free so we welcome sponsorship and volunteer help with judging, promotion of competitions, social media support etc.
To progress this, we’d love to hear from the following:
- Organisations that share values of sustainability, creativity and positivity to sponsor prizes on a regular basis going forward.
- Organisers of writers’ retreats, workshops, creative writing courses who are interested in a talk/workshop hosted by Professor Denise Baden on writing for a cause.
- Book lovers and script readers to volunteer their help assessing entries.
- Published writers working on new material who’d like a one-to-one consultancy on how to smuggle in green solutions
- Publishers, agents, producers, commissioning editors etc. who can work with us to translate winning entries into actual novels, radio plays, programmes, films and plays.
- Well-known authors, script writers or TV personalities with an interest in the environment to present prizes at prize giving events.