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5.2.1: Restorying climate change narratives
Friday, 04/June/2021:
12:30pm - 2:00pm

Technical chair: Nasya Razavi
Location: Room 1

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5.2.1: Restorying climate change narratives

Chair(s): Jonathan Langdon (St. Francis Xavier University, Canada), Blane Harvey (McGill University)

We are increasingly beginning to realize that “facts are not enough” in the push for meaningful action on climate change. The IPCC and other global bodies have been warning us about the increasing dire situation for over 25 years and yet actions remain grossly insufficient – the 2019 Convention of Parties in Madrid where countries failed to develop a framework to enact the Paris agreement being a case in point. Scholars, activists and others engaging in this struggle have recognised the importance of narrative, story, and rich personal accounts in humanizing and bringing to life the often distant and abstract evidence that is presented to us through climate models and projections. For instance, at the 2019 Transformations conference in Chile, the crucial link between artists and climate change narratives was central to the conference. Narrative forms of expression are being used for a range of purposes: expressing the loss and grief associated with impacts already being experienced; re-telling ways that communities or partnerships have succeeded in responding to the impacts they were confronting; articulating a group’s vision for alternative futures and the means of achieving them; and even building connection and solidarity between groups experiencing similar challenges in vastly different contexts. This session seeks to explore the power of story and narrative, understand how these are generated and shared, and reflect on how these stories relate to other forms of action. It also explores whose stories of a climate changed future are being told, whose are being marginalized, and how we can address this silencing.


Presentations of the Symposium


Stories of change as a tool for collective learning

Elaine Huang1, Blane Harvey2
1McGill, 2McGill University

Actions that lead to meaningful change (whether through research, activism, or political processes) rarely unfold in a linear or straightforward manner. The “messiness” of real change processes can mean that learning from the experience is challenging and partial, limited to individuals’ vantage points, or oversimplified accounts of what unfolded. This paper reports on initial results from the use of a story-based approach to understanding outcomes in international collaborations on adaptation to climate change in Africa and Asia. We will explore how this model of story-based contribution analysis has helped to develop rich accounts of change, as well as of the learning and collaboration processes that catalysed the change, and how collective analysis of different stories of change can begin to reveal strategies for change that can inform future action on climate and development.


Restorying the past to defend sustainable livelihood futures: the case of the Yihi Katseme of Ada, Ghana

Jonathan Langdon1, Sophia Kitcher2, Sheena Cameron3
1St. Francis Xavier University, 2Yihi Katseme, 3OISE

For the past 11 years, a participatory action research project in Ada, Ghana has had stories at the research's core. Movement actions have come from these stories, and stories have become the way in which movement learning has emerged. This presentation will describe how combining narrative restorying with participatory research approaches generated storytelling and meaning making that has been a crucial dimension of social movement organizing and learning in Ada. This movement, known as the Yihi Katseme, or Brave Women, has been defending communal access to West Africa’s largest salt yielding lagoon from both internal and external threats of expropriation/privatization, as well as environmental degradation. This resource is the backbone of 60,000+ people’s livelihoods. The presentation will share several of the narratives that emerged from the research, and how restorying has enabled these narratives to evolve over time to reveal deepening community resilience, learning, and emergent strategies in not only meaning making, but also making changes to meaning through actions.


Mi’kma’ki 2030, opening spaces to imagine a decolonized, climate just future

Liliona Quarmyne1, Jonathan Langdon2
1Mi'kma'ki 2030, 2St. Francis Xavier University

Emerging out of the 2030 Declaration Network in Nova Scotia (a network that demands concrete climate action from government on all levels), Mi’kma’ki 2030 began as an artistic response to the question, “what does a decolonized, climate just future look like in Mi’kma’ki?” Mi’kma’ki is the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq – an area that comprises most of the Maritimes and part of New England. The artist collective that emerged in response to the question brings together BIPOC artists to build and interrogate these future visions, create new narratives, and foster resiliency in working towards a climate just future. This presentation will focus on the story of the collective so far, and public response to these decolonizing spaces – one of which reconfigured Halifax’s city hall into a sweat lodge. The importance of climate justice in shaping climate change narratives will also be articulated.


Storying as pathways to sustainable futures: A participatory scenario development method

Elaine Huang
McGill University

As homo narrans, our course of action is largely shaped by how we story our past, present, and imagined futures. However, the dominant approach to scenario development heavily relies on a few quantifiable or large-scale drivers. It has downplayed local processes and people’s agency to change, and constrained our imagined possibilities for sustainable futures. The lack of scenario narratives towards sustainable futures, as this presentation will argue, have also generated much anxiety (Findlater et al. 2018), skepticism (Huang, Harvey & Asghar, in review), and even climate fatalism (Mayer & Smith 2019), which can lead to further inaction. This presentation will share a visioning-focused approach to developing scenario narratives. By combining backcasting technique with participatory research, the method starts from people’s imagined futures to construct scenario narratives that are plausible and can be operated within planetary boundaries. The case of transforming the role of universities for SDGs will be discussed.

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