Storytelling to save the world

Throughout Scotland's Year of Stories, young people have the potential to change the world through the power of storytelling, writes Freya Aitchison.

Our world runs on stories. We tell stories about the past, about what’s happening in the present, and about what could happen in the future. Stories are how we learn about the world around us, and how we connect with other people – our neighbours, our family members, and people all over the world. It’s therefore no surprise that research shows that people tend to respond a lot better to stories about the climate crisis than to pure facts and figures. Stories make the crisis feel personal; they invoke fear and sympathy and determination to create change.

Many young people in Scotland and across the world are already engaged with the climate crisis and feel worried about it – 70% of 18-24 year-olds are more worried about climate change now than they were a year ago. It’s often older generations who are more sceptical about taking climate action or who have other concerns like work, family and bills. Young people are ideally placed to have conversations with adults in their lives about climate change and to influence their decision-making around this.

It has been shown that adults are far more likely to change their attitudes when confronted with their own children’s hopes and fears than with scientific facts or political statements. Even the CEOs of oil companies have changed their policies because of concerns from their children. Children and young people have a huge amount of influence, and youth workers can help them realise this and prepare them for these difficult conversations.

This year is Scotland’s Year of Stories, a year dedicated to celebrating the power of stories and of storytellers past, present and future. The stories of Scotland’s young people have an incredible amount of potential, and could be the emotional switch that convinces the adults around them that it is time to act.

To help young people think about what they would like to say, YouthLink Scotland has put together a workshop template for youth workers which will allow them to support young people in harnessing this potential and telling their own climate stories.

We hope that this will give young people more confidence in their own narrative and standpoint, and that it will make difficult conversations a bit easier. Young people can also share their climate stories online with the hashtags #TalesOfScotland and #ScotYouthClimate.

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